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Boonville Daily News - Boonville, MO
  • Oscar Pistorius trial: Witness heard screams then shots

  • The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial testified Monday to hearing "blood-curdling" screams from a woman before she heard four gunshots on the night the double-amputee Olympian killed his girlfriend.
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  • The Associated Press
    PRETORIA, South Africa The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial testified Monday to hearing "blood-curdling" screams from a woman before she heard four gunshots on the night the double-amputee Olympian killed his girlfriend.
    Michelle Burger, who lives about 196 yards from Pistorius' house, said the screams woke her in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, when Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp by shooting four times through a toilet door.
    Pistorius, 27, says he killed Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder. Prosecutors, however, say the world-famous athlete shot his girlfriend after a fight. As soon as the trial started they used Burger's testimony to hint at a loud argument before the fatal shots.
    Burger's evidence contradicts Pistorius' version of events because the runner said he thought Steenkamp was in bed and did not describe any woman screaming.
    "It was very traumatic," Burger said. "You could hear it was blood-curdling screams. You can't translate it into words. The anxiousness in her voice, and fear. It leaves you cold."
    Burger said: "She screamed terribly and she yelled for help" and testified that she also heard a man shout for help before the shots were fired.
    Pistorius' lawyer, Barry Roux, opened his cross-examination by asking Burger if she thought Pistorius was a liar. She didn't directly answer that but questioned Pistorius' version.
    "I can only tell the court what I heard that evening," Burger said. "I cannot understand how I could clearly hear a woman scream but Mr. Pistorius could not hear it."
    Roux, in an attempt to discredit her recollection of the sequence of events, argued that she heard just Pistorius screaming for help and trying to get into the bathroom by breaking down the locked door with a cricket bat.
    Burger didn't concede ground, saying there was "no doubt" in her mind she heard two different people screaming, one a woman, and then the four gunshots, with a gap between the first shot and then the other three. She said she could not mistake gun shots for the sound of a cricket bat hitting a door.
    The trial started 90 minutes late.
    Pistorius pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and three other counts relating to shooting guns in public in unrelated incidents and illegal possession of ammunition. Wearing a dark gray suit and black tie, he wrote in a pad and sometimes passed notes to his defense lawyers. At one point he smiled to a person sitting behind him.
    The Olympian's murder trial is being broadcast live on TV in South Africa and across the world.
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