Africa

Oscar Pistorius' neighbours 'heard man crying loudly'

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Media captionRita Motshuane, Oscar Pistorius' neighbour: "I head a man crying and to me... it was a cry of pain"

Three of Oscar Pistorius' nearest neighbours said they heard a man crying loudly on the night the athlete shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

They also said they did not hear a woman screaming, contradicting earlier testimonies from other neighbours.

The witnesses were called by Mr Pistorius' defence team to testify at his murder trial, as it seeks to prove he shot his girlfriend by mistake.

He denies intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp on 14 February last year.

The South African Paralympic sprinter says he shot her through a toilet door in a state of panic, mistaking her for an intruder.

Loud crying

The athlete's next-door neighbour, Michael Nhlengethwa, told the court on Tuesday that on the night of the shooting he went to the house after hearing a man "crying very loudly".

"I saw Oscar kneeling next to the lady, he was just crying," the witness said.

His wife, Eontle, also testifying, said she heard the loud sound of a "male person's voice" crying "help, help, help".

Another neighbour, Rika Motshuane, insisted that she heard a man crying, describing it as a "cry of pain".

The three witnesses said they did not hear a female screaming, contradicting prosecution witnesses who had testified to hearing a woman scream.

The defence's case is that Ms Steenkamp never screamed, but that it was Mr Pistorius who screamed "like a woman".

Ms Eontle also revealed, under cross-examination from state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, that she heard the sound of one bang, compared with the two or three bangs heard by other neighbours who had testified.

Mr Nel suggested that the noise she had heard came from the second set of bangs, after Ms Steenkamp had already been shot.

Mr Pistorius kept his head in his hands as he listened to his neighbours' testimonies.

Mr Roux said on Tuesday that he expected to wrap up his defence case in a week, to which the judge responded "I hope so".

The court has now adjourned until Thursday - the day after South Africa's elections.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Oscar Pistorius' defence lawyer Barry Roux (r) suggested he could wrap up the defence case within a week
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Oscar Pistorius broke down several times when he took the stand before Easter

On Monday two other neighbours - who were first at the scene - described Mr Pistorius' frantic efforts to revive Ms Steenkamp.

Johan Stander, the first person Mr Pistorius called after the shooting, said the athlete "was broken", sobbing and praying for her life.

In an emotional testimony, his daughter, Carice Viljoen, told the court she feared the athlete would shoot himself with the gun used to kill Ms Steenkamp.

Before the Easter break, the athlete faced several days of cross-examination from Mr Nel, who accused him of using emotional outbursts "as an escape".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The couple had been dating for just a few months when she was shot dead in 2013

As well as a ballistics expert, the defence is expected to call a psychologist to speak about Mr Pistorius' disability and his acute sense of vulnerability.

The prosecution has sought to show a pattern of reckless behaviour by the athlete and has argued that a reasonable man would have checked before firing four bullets through a locked door.

If found guilty, the 27-year-old - a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the "blade runner" because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race - could face life imprisonment.

Ms Steenkamp, 29, was a model, celebrity TV star and law graduate.

If Mr Pistorius is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

INTERACTIVE
  • ×

  • 1. Balcony

    × Balcony

    Mr Pistorius said in his statement at the start of the trial that he woke in the early hours and walked on his stumps to the balcony, pulled in two fans, closed the sliding door and drew curtains. He said that shortly before he had spoken to Reeva, who was in bed beside him.

    He said he rejected prosecution claims that a witness heard arguing coming from the house before the shooting.

  • 2. Bathroom window

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he heard the bathroom window sliding open and believed that an intruder, or intruders, had entered the bathroom through a window which was not fitted with burglar bars.

    "Unbeknown to me, Reeva must have gone to the toilet in the bathroom at the time I brought in the fans," he said.

    Mr Pistorius said he approached the bathroom armed with his firearm, to defend himself and his girlfriend, believing Ms Steenkamp was still in bed.

  • 3. Shooting

    ×

    Both sides agree four bullets were fired. Ms Steenkamp was hit three times.

    Mr Pistorius said he fired his weapon after hearing a noise in the toilet which he thought was the intruder coming out of the toilet to attack him and Ms Steenkamp.

    He said he was in a fearful state, knowing he was on his stumps and unable to run away or properly defend himself.

    Mr Pistorius said he rejected claims that he was on his prostheses when he shot at the door.

    A witness told the trial she woke to hear a woman screaming and a man shouting for help. She said that after the screams she heard four shots.

  • 4. Bedroom

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bedroom after shooting at the toilet door, still shouting for Reeva. Lifting himself up onto the bed, he felt over to the right hand side of it and noticed Ms Steenkamp was not there.

    Mr Pistorius said this was when he realised she could have been in the toilet.

  • 5. Toilet door

    ×

    Mr Pistorius said he went back to the bathroom but the toilet was locked, so he returned to the bedroom, pulled on his prosthetic legs, turned on the lights before bashing in the toilet door with a cricket bat.

    Forensics expert Johannes Vermeulen told the court that the height of the marks on the door caused by the cricket bat suggest Mr Pistorius was on his stumps at the time.

  • 6. Emergency calls

    ×

    Mr Pistorius's defence team say he then called security at the gated housing complex and a private paramedic service before carrying Ms Steenkamp downstairs.

    A security guard claimed it was the other way round, and he had called Mr Pistorius first after reports of gunfire. However, phone records shown to the court revealed Mr Pistorius called the estate manager at 3:19am, a minute later he called the ambulance service and at 3:21am he called estate security.

    A minute later he received an incoming call - estate security calling him back.

    According to police phone expert Francois Moller, Mr Pistorius called his friend Justin Divaris a short time later and just after 4:00am he called his brother Carl.

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