Oscar trial: witness’s notes under scutinyComment on this story
Pretoria - Charl Johnson, the neighbour who allegedly heard screams and gunshots coming from the home of Oscar Pistorius on the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed, once again returned to the stand.
On Wednesday, his testimony was interrupted for the High Court in Pretoria to receive Johnson's notes on that night, which he had compiled after the incident, but before he had given an official statement to investigators.
Defence advocate Barry Roux once again accused Johnson and his wife, first witness Michelle Burger, of corroborating their respective statements, which Johnson has denied since he took the stand earlier this week.
Johnson was asked to explain how his statement was taken by Captain Mike van Aardt.
Johnson said he was interviewed, but had not handed over his notes that detailed the night of the incident.
The court was told that the notes were made on March 6, 2013, with certain corrections made, and sent to an advocate who had advised Johnson and Burger to approach the police.
Roux told the court that Johnson's wife's own notes had been destroyed.
When the first pair of police investigators came to their home on March 6, the couple gave their version of events together.
They were told that their statements would then be taken on March 13 by Van Aardt.
Johnson's notes were then brought before the court for Roux's scrutiny.
In them, they stated that Burger had woken up after Johnson had jumped from his bed.
The notes also revealed that Johnson believed the screams sounded panicked, as though someone was being attacked.
Roux put to Johnson that the notes differed from his testimony, but were particularly similar to his wife's.
“(Johnson's version of events are) designed to sideline and incriminate the accused,” said Roux.
The notes also revealed that Johnson had written that his wife's version was the same or “as explained above”.
But Johnson said that Burger had given her version of events to him on the day after the shooting, after he had found out the incident had involved Pistorius.
Roux shot back that Johnson had studied the notes on Wednesday night, and that he wanted to explain away the similiarities between the two statements.
“I am not aware of the content of her testimony,” said Johnson, who added that he had never read his wife's own notes or her police statement.
Johnson's notes said that he had not counted the number of shots that were fired, but that his wife had, with no reference to Burger or Johnson's testimony that suggested Johnson had heard five or six shots.
Johnson argued that the notes were just a rough guideline to help his memory of the incident. But Roux said the document had been altered a few hours later, not the sign of a “carefree” set of notes.
He asked why Johnson had sent the notes to advocate Nicky Maritz, who had advised him.
Maritz advised Johnson to make notes that the couple could rely on so as not to forget what happened on the night of the shooting.
But Roux said that the reason Johnson had forwarded his notes was because Maritz knew the State prosecutor in Pistorius's case, Gerrie Nel, and that he would approach Nel on Johnson's behalf.
But Johnson denied speaking to Nel until much later.
Roux said that Johnson had also been aware of what his wife had testified earlier this week, as reflected by Johnson bringing up the number of shots she heard - and how she had counted them - before being prompted by the court to do so.
Roux returned to the line of questioning around whether or not Johnson and Burger had heard gunshots, and not another loud noise.
But Johnson said he was convinced he could identify a gunshot.
Roux then returned to his theory that the sounds Burger and Johnson heard was the sound of Pistorius trying to break down the bathroom door with a cricket bat after the shooting.
Johnson said the rapid succession of the loud noises meant that it couldn't have been someone taking several swings with a heavy cricket bat.
He said that he would be able to identify the difference between a hard knock and a bullet.
But Roux attacked Johnson's perception, saying that he could not even remember how many shots were fired that night.
The trial continues.