Pretoria - What a resident in an estate next door to Oscar Pistorius’s home had thought were shots being fired was actually the sound of Pistorius bashing down the toilet door to get to Reeva Steenkamp.
This is according to defence advocate Barry Roux, SC, who grilled Charl Johnson on the reliability of his accounts of February 14 last year – when Pistorius shot Steenkamp.
Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder.
Johnson was adamant on Wednesday that what he had heard were shots being fired.
Johnson earlier testified he was woken by the scream of a woman. After the first scream he had lifted his head to make sure he had heard correctly. “When she screamed again, I ran to the balcony and I heard the person screaming again. I could hear she was in trouble… clearly distressed.
“I heard a lady screaming ‘help’. Sometime after that I heard a male voice shouting ‘help, help, help’,” he told Pretoria High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa on Tuesday.
Johnson said he ran back into the house, phoned the security, which was the wrong number. He then threw down the phone and ran back to the balcony. He again heard a woman screaming.
“At that point the intensity escalated. That is when the shots were fired. During the shots, I heard a lady screaming again. The last scream faded after the last gunshot.”
Under cross-examination on Wednesday, it was revealed that Johnson called security at his complex, Silver Stream Estate, at 3.16am – before he heard the gunshots.
But Roux said this could not be true if one looked at the timeline of events early that morning. “At 3.16am you made the call to the security, which lasted 58 seconds. Your wife has the same time. We know after the call you threw the telephone down and ran to the balcony. We know you heard the shots at 3.17am.
“Let me share a time with you. At 3.19:30 seconds, plus minus one and a half minutes later, the accused Pistorius called (Johan) Stander for help. In his version we know he called Stander shortly after breaking down the toilet door.
“So let us take one and a half minutes back to your 3.17am (when he heard the shots). It precisely coincides with the time he broke down the door with a cricket bat,” said Roux.
Johnson said he was convinced that what he had heard were shots.
Roux responded: “I suppose one can say he first broke down the door, then erected it again before firing shots through the door.”
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel objected at this point, saying Roux was trying to create an atmosphere.
Roux said he was not trying to be funny. “This is to demonstrate that it could only be the breaking of the door you heard.”
He said the timelines were clear from Johnson’s phone, as to when the call was made to security and from Pistorius’s phone when he called Stander (after breaking down the door).
While the purpose of Roux’s questioning was to test Johnson’s credibility, he told Johnson it was not always about credibility.
“Sometimes people genuinely believe something. You heard a woman scream and I can understand you thought it was a woman screaming. I also understand you believe what you heard were gunshots. In all fairness, it is a man’s life at stake here. Let’s look at the possibilities,” said Roux.
One could work out the time, he said, precisely to the minute as to when the door was broken down and when Johnson stood on the balcony, claiming he heard shots. Roux said Johnson thus mistook the breaking of the door for shots, which, according to the time line, he could not have heard as he was asleep at the time.
Cross-examination of Johnson by Roux will continue on Thursday, as the court stood down in order for Johnson to produce notes he had made.