Pistorius pleads not guilty at start of trial

Pretoria, South Africa: The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial testified Monday to hearing "blood-curdling" screams before the sound of four gunshots on the night the double-amputee Olympian killed his girlfriend.   Michell Burger,
pistorius pleads not guilty at start of trial -...
India TV News Desk March 03, 2014 18:16 IST
Pretoria, South Africa: The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial testified Monday to hearing "blood-curdling" screams before the sound of four gunshots on the night the double-amputee Olympian killed his girlfriend.
   


Michell Burger, a woman who lives on an estate next to Pistorius' gated community, said she and her husband were awoken by the screams in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, when Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp by shooting four times through a door in his bathroom.
   
Pistorius says he killed Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a dangerous intruder in his house, but prosecutors believe the world-famous athlete shot his girlfriend after a fight and immediately tried to paint a picture at the trial of a loud argument before the fatal shots.
   
"It was very traumatic," Burger said, speaking in Afrikaans through an interpreter and in answer to questions from lead prosecutor Gerrie Nel. "You could hear it was blood-curdling screams. You can't translate it into words. The anxiousness in her voice, and fear. It leaves you cold."
   
Burger said: "She screamed terribly and she yelled for help" and testified that after the gunshots a man shouted for help.
   
Pistorius earlier pleaded not guilty at the start of the trial to charges of murder and three other counts relating to shooting guns in public and illegal possession of ammunition. Wearing a dark gray suit and black tie, he spent the first 30 minutes of the first day of the trial at the high court in the South African capital standing before his defense lawyer, Barry Roux, asked the judge for permission for Pistorius to sit.
   
The Olympian's murder trial was being broadcast live on TV in South Africa and across the world.
   
The first witness, Burger, was called before even an hour had passed as the prosecution went straight into testimony. The trial itself started 90 minutes late after an earlier delay because of an interpreter problem.
   
When he entered court, Pistorius walked past the victim's mother who says she came to court so she can "really look him in the eyes."
   
Defense lawyer Kenny Oldwadge laid out Pistorius' legal strategy, reading a statement from Pistorius in which he says the killing was an accident and that there were inconsistencies in the state's case, as well as an attempt to introduce inadmissible character evidence to discredit him.
   
In the statement, Pistorius said he brought two fans in from the balcony on the night of the killing, after speaking to his girlfriend who was in bed beside him. He said Steenkamp must have gone into the bathroom while he was fetching the fans. Pistorius said he did not notice that she had gone and heard the bathroom window open.
   
"I approached the bathroom, armed with my firearm, so as to defend Reeva and I," Pistorius said in the statement. He said he then heard a noise in the toilet, and was in a "fearful state" because he was unable to run away or defend himself physically since he was not wearing his prosthetic legs.
   
 
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