Oscar trial: first witness testifies

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gerrie nel sized MEDIA POOL Prosecutor Gerrie Nel reads out the charges during the appearance of Oscar Pistorius in the North Gauteng High court in Pretoria. Picture: Herman Verwey

Pretoria - The first witness called by prosecutor Gerrie Nel at Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial was a resident at the neighbouring Silver Stream Estate.

Michell Burger was called to give her version of what happened on the night of the shooting at Silver Woods Estate.

The slender brunette, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, told the court she knew of Oscar Pistorius, but had never met him nor had she known where in Silver Woods he stayed.

She said she and her husband had gone to bed between 9 and 10pm that night. At around 3am, she woke up to a woman's screams. She sat upright and her husband jumped up, running to the balcony.

The female voice yelled for help, and another man was shouting as well. He later also began yelling for help three times afterwards.

Burger then told husband to come back into the room to call security.

She gave her husband the phone after calling their security, to get them to tell the Silver Woods security about the attack at the house there.

Burger said her husband had to explain again because the person on the other end of the line had passed the phone to another.

Burger could still hear the woman's screams coming from the home, more intense than before.

Burger began to become emotional at this point. “It was a climax, she was very scared,” she told the court.

Then Burger heard four shots.

Timing between the first and second shots was longer than the second and third. The last shot came a second or so later.

Burger's husband then returned from the balcony. She thought that the man involved in the argument could have been shot, as she did not hear his voice after he had shouted for help.

The prosecution then produced aerial photos showing the position of the two homes, one belonging to Pistorius, the other to Burger.

She showed the balcony where her husband had been standing when they heard the screams.

Burger said the entire experience was traumatic, and the “bloodcurdling screams” had scarred her.

The next day she went to work and called a friend on the way, telling her the story. This friend had a child at the Silver Woods nursery school, so Burger asked if she could look into what had happened.

She told two colleagues about the previous night.

Later on, her husband called her to tell her about what the news was reporting about Pistorius and the alleged intruder in his home.

Burger told the court she didn't believe the story.

At one of Pistorius's previous proceedings, Burger heard of a witness who lived about 600 metres away from Pistorius's home, and she realised she lived even closer.

She contacted an advocate she knew to find out what she should do about giving a statement.

She wanted to provide it “privately” to avoid media attention.

Proceedings were to resume at 1.50pm.

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