Teary-eyed Oscar cowers in dock

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Copy of Copy of PTA03_SAFRICA-PISTORIUS-_0304_11

REUTERS

Oscar Pistorius sits in the dock ahead of the second day of the trial of the Olympic and Paralympic track star at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/ Pool

Pretoria - Oscar Pistorius cowered in the dock when during a witness's cross examination, the details surrounding Reeva Steenkamp's bullet wounds were read out in court.

The defence was cross-examining first witness, Michelle Burger, when the need to provide testimony from a ballistics expert became evident.

The University of Pretoria lecturer lived 177 metres from Pistorius's home and told the court of what she heard the night of the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp.

According to Burger, there was a series of screams and shouts from both a man and a woman coming from Pistorius's home before she heard gunshots fired in the distance - as well as more female screams during the gunshots and just after.

Defence advocate Barry Roux told the court that the impact of the shots - as proven by ballistic experts - meant Steenkamp could not have screamed after the gun was fired.

The court then heard a portion of a statement by the expert stating the extent of the damage Steenkamp had sustained from the bullets. Her hand trying to cover her head had been penetrated, the bullet travelling into her head resulting in death.

When this was read out, Pistorius in the dock bent down, holding his head in his hands for more than two minutes. He eventually emerged red-faced and teary-eyed, taking out a tissue and wiping his nose before quickly maintaining his composure.

Roux continued his onslaught, once again returning to his theory that Burger's hearing of two voices on the night was incorrect.

He suggested that because Pistorius was so distraught from killing his girlfriend, Burger could have misinterpreted his screams and shouts as that of a woman.

“I heard two disctinct voices,” Burger told the court, but Roux insisted she was no voice expert.

Roux then asked why, if a man was about to kill his girlfriend, would he shout out for help. Burger suggested that Pistorius be asked to answer this question.

Roux posited that her own version of events was so ingrained in her mind, that she was unwilling to consider the possibility that she wrong.

Gunshots heard on the night could have been the sound of a cricket bat striking a door, Roux suggested as he was cross-examining witness Michelle Burger, who said she heard the shots.

Roux asked: “Do you know what it sounds like when an English willow wood [cricket bat] makes hard contact with a meranti door?”

With her house 177m from Pistorius's townhouse, where Steenkamp was killed, Roux asked her if this sound would not resemble gunshots.

“Only an expert can say, but I doubt it. A gunshot is extremely loud,” she replied.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel finally stood up, saying that the witness was being badgered.

Nel mistakenly addressed the judge as “Madam” instead of “My Lady”.

His prompt apology evoked laughter from the public gallery, relieving the tension.

Judge Thokozile Masipa then said that the point had been exhausted.

After his lengthy cross-examination of the first witness in the trial, Pistorius's lawyer finally concluded his cross-examination.

Roux ended by asking Burger questions about her experience with guns.

She reiterated her statement from Monday that while she had heard gunshots before, it was the first time she had heard shots since she moved into Silverstreams Estate, the complex next to Silverwoods Estate where Pistorius lived and shot dead Steenkamp.

“Those were the only shots I had ever heard,” said Burger.

When prosecutor Gerrie Nel asked burger about her state of mind when she gave her statement to police.

“What were your emotions at the time of making the statement?” he asked.

“Raw emotion,” she replied, her voice breaking as she began to cry, reaching for her purse to get a tissue.

The next witness, Silverwoods resident Estelle van der Merwe, was called to the stand.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star and Sapa

Click here for IOL’s live blog about the Oscar trial.


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