News / Africa

    As Pistorius Murder Trial Begins, Neighbor Describes Hearing 'Blood-curdling' Screams

    Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 3, 2014.
    Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during his trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, March 3, 2014.
    Anita Powell
    A neighbor of  Oscar Pistorius described hearing "blood-curdling" screams the night the South African athlete shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

    Pistorius' long-awaited murder trial got under way Monday with the double amputee athlete pleading not guilty to all charges against him stemming from the Feb. 14, 2013, shooting death of Steenkamp.

    Pistorius, 27, responded, "Not guilty, my lady," to every charge before Judge Thokozile Masipa.

    He looked calmer during this court appearance than he did a year ago during a tear-soaked, trembling appearance just days after he shot his model girlfriend dead at his Pretoria home.

    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    x
    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    Oscar Pistorius and girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in Johannesburg on Jan. 26, 2013, less than a month before Steenkamp's death.
    He doesn't deny shooting Steenkamp. The trial is about his intent. Pistorius claims he mistook his girlfriend of three months for an intruder and did not mean to kill her when he shot four times through a locked bathroom door. 

    The prosecution says they will prove premeditated murder. 

    The state called the first of 107 witnesses, Michelle Burger, a neighbor of Pistorius who described what she heard on the evening of the shooting.

    Burger, whose home is 177 meters from Pistorius', said she was awakened by a woman's "blood-curdling" screams, followed by a man's cries for help. She then says she heard four gunshots, while the woman continued screaming.

    "She was very scared...her shouts, her screams were petrifying," Burger said. "Before the gunshots, moments before the gunshots, I sat in the bed and it's the most helpless feeling I've ever had in my life. I anticipated something was going to happen, because of the climax of her shouts, I knew something terrible was happening in that house."

    Burger testified she and her husband thought they were hearing a violent house break-in and called security. She said it only occurred to her later, upon seeing the news of the shooting at Pistorius' home, that that is what she had heard.

    The athlete's defense lawyer, Barry Roux, suggested Burger instead heard the sound of Pistorius breaking down the bathroom door with a cricket bat, consistent with his client's account of events.

    But Burger steadfastly stuck to her account.

    • Oscar Pistorius leaves the high court in Pretoria, April 14, 2014.
    • Oscar Pistorius outside the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 10, 2014.
    • Jane Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp's mother is comforted by a relative after her dead daughter's picture was shown on screen during the trial of Oscar Pistorius at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, April 9, 2014.
    • Family members, including uncle Arnold Pistorius, right, cry as they listen to Oscar Pistorius testifying in court in Pretoria, April 8, 2014.
    • Oscar Pistorius becomes emotional during his trial at the high court in Pretoria, April 7, 2014.
    • Members of the public crowd around Oscar Pistorius as he leaves the high court, Pretoria, March 12, 2014.

    • Oscar Pistorius cries as he prays with his sister Aimee and brother Carl at his indictment at the magistrates court in Pretoria, August 19, 2013.
    • This aerial image taken from video provided by VNS24/7 shows the home of Oscar Pistorius in a gated housing complex in Pretoria, Feb. 14, 2013.
    • Olympian runner Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, Jan. 26, 2013.
    • Oscar Pistorius celebrates winning the men's 400 meter final during the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Sept. 8, 2012.

    The families of Pistorius and Steenkamp were also in court Monday, seated a few meters apart on opposite ends of a long bench.

    Legal experts predict the trial could take months and, given today's lengthy witness appearance, that appears likely.

    Pistorius shot to fame for being the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics in 2012. He also has won medals at the Paralympic Games. 

    Parts of the trial are being televised live. A South African station has launched a 24-hour channel dedicated solely to the case.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: MPoss from: Palm Springs, CA
    March 03, 2014 1:53 PM
    This man wakes up in bed because he hears a sound coming from the bathroom which is a few feet away with the door closed - yet doesn't bother to turn his head to see if Reeva is still in bed with him - he notices his two watch dogs are peacefully sleeping and are not awakened by any break-in - yet, he doesn't ask "Reeva, are you in the bathroom?" - and immediately assumes it's a robber and "jumps the gun"... and starts shooting like a paranoid lunatic... And Legal experts predict the trial could take months? Huh? This man is guilty - he was in a fit of a jealous rage and believed that Reeva was going back to her previous relationship. Motive? If I can't have, no one else will... Question: Besides wearing shorts and a shirt, was Reeva wearing shoes when she was shot in the bathroom? Why? Perhaps she was getting ready to leave because they were quarreling but decided to freshen up before leaving his place?

    by: oskar from: south africa
    March 03, 2014 12:35 PM
    what likely happened is the argument escalated to the point where the assaults he committed to the victim were so great he determined murder to be a option, and then lie and claim a farce.

    Pistorius may his life in jail be long and full of interactions.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora