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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora