Oscar Pistorius’ neighbours ‘heard man crying loudly’

Rita Motshuane, Oscar Pistorius’ neighbour: “I head a man crying and to me… it was a cry of pain”

Three of Oscar Pistorius’ nearest neighbours said they heard a man crying loudly on the night the athlete shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

They also said they did not hear a woman screaming, contradicting earlier testimonies from other neighbours.

The witnesses were called by Mr Pistorius’ defence team to testify at his murder trial, as it seeks to prove he shot his girlfriend by mistake.

He denies intentionally killing Ms Steenkamp on 14 February last year.

The South African Paralympic sprinter says he shot her through a toilet door in a state of panic, mistaking her for an intruder.

Loud crying

The athlete’s next-door neighbour, Michael Nhlengethwa, told the court on Tuesday that on the night of the shooting he went to the house after hearing a man “crying very loudly”.

“I saw Oscar kneeling next to the lady, he was just crying,” the witness said.

His wife, Eontle, also testifying, said she heard the loud sound of a “male person’s voice” crying “help, help, help”.

Another neighbour, Rika Motshuane, insisted that she heard a man crying, describing it as a “cry of pain”.

The three witnesses said they did not hear a female screaming, contradicting prosecution witnesses who had testified to hearing a woman scream.

The defence’s case is that Ms Steenkamp never screamed, but that it was Mr Pistorius who screamed “like a woman”.

Ms Eontle also revealed, under cross-examination from state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, that she heard the sound of one bang, compared with the two or three bangs heard by other neighbours who had testified.

Mr Nel suggested that the noise she had heard came from the second set of bangs, after Ms Steenkamp had already been shot.

Mr Pistorius kept his head in his hands as he listened to his neighbours’ testimonies.

Mr Roux said on Tuesday that he expected to wrap up his defence case in a week, to which the judge responded “I hope so”.

The court has now adjourned until Thursday – the day after South Africa’s elections.

South African Paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius (L) consults with his defence lawyer Barry Roux during his murder trial at the high court in Pretoria on 6 May 2014.
Oscar Pistorius’ defence lawyer Barry Roux (r) suggested he could wrap up the defence case within a week
South African paralympic Oscar Pistorius leaves court in Pretoria on on 5 May  2014.
Oscar Pistorius broke down several times when he took the stand before Easter

On Monday two other neighbours – who were first at the scene – described Mr Pistorius’ frantic efforts to revive Ms Steenkamp.

Johan Stander, the first person Mr Pistorius called after the shooting, said the athlete “was broken”, sobbing and praying for her life.

In an emotional testimony, his daughter, Carice Viljoen, told the court she feared the athlete would shoot himself with the gun used to kill Ms Steenkamp.

Before the Easter break, the athlete faced several days of cross-examination from Mr Nel, who accused him of using emotional outbursts “as an escape”.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg - 14 February 2013
The couple had been dating for just a few months when she was shot dead in 2013

As well as a ballistics expert, the defence is expected to call a psychologist to speak about Mr Pistorius’ disability and his acute sense of vulnerability.

The prosecution has sought to show a pattern of reckless behaviour by the athlete and has argued that a reasonable man would have checked before firing four bullets through a locked door.

If found guilty, the 27-year-old – a national sporting hero and double amputee dubbed the “blade runner” because of the prosthetic limbs he wears to race – could face life imprisonment.

Ms Steenkamp, 29, was a model, celebrity TV star and law graduate.

If Mr Pistorius is acquitted of murder, the court must consider an alternative charge of culpable homicide, for which he could receive about 15 years in prison.

He also faces charges of illegally firing a gun in public and of illegally possessing ammunition, both of which he denies.

There are no juries at trials in South Africa, and his fate will ultimately be decided by the judge, assisted by two assessors.

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