Oscar Pistorius: Neighbour's evidence supports Olympic athlete's claims

Last Updated: 07/05/14 12:38pm

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Oscar Pistorius: Denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius: Denies murdering Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius' next-door neighbour has told a court he heard "very loud" cries from someone "desperate for help" on the night the athlete's girlfriend was shot dead.

But Michael Nhlengethwa, whose house is just 11 metres from the bathroom where Reeva Steenkamp was fatally injured, said he did not hear a woman screaming.

It appears to contradict the claims of an earlier witness, who said she heard "blood-curdling screams" on Valentine's Day last year, despite living further away from Pistorius' home.

The trial also heard from Mr Nhlengethwa's wife, Eontle, who was asked to repeat the noise she heard while her husband was searching their house for intruders after the couple were awoken by a loud bang.

She made a loud shrieking noise - at which point Pistorius leant forward, covering his ears with his hands - but insisted the "vibrating, high-pitched noise" was the sound of a man crying, not a woman screaming.

During his evidence, Mr Nhlengethwa told the court: "We went into shock and we knew something was wrong.

"We started panicking, worrying something had happened to our neighbours or our security guard."

Asked by defence lawyer Barry Roux to elaborate on what he heard, Mr Nhlengethwa said: "There is a difference between a normal cry - somebody weeping - and a cry when you are in danger and need help.

Desperate

"The cry we heard was from someone who was desperate for help. It was very loud."

During cross-examination by Gerrie Nel, the witness was asked whether he heard the sounds of a woman screaming.

"No, not at all," he replied.

Another neighbour, Rita Motshuane, also imitated the noises she heard, hunching her shoulders and letting out a series of loud, painful wails.

She said the sound, which was so haunting she could not move from her bed, came from a man, not from a woman.

The Nhlengethwas were originally on the State's list of witnesses but neither were called by the prosecution.

Mr Nhlengethwa said Pistorius always greeted him by walking over to talk and shake hands.

Engaged

He said the athlete introduced Ms Steenkamp as his fiancee and said he was moving out of the Silver Woods estate in Pretoria to Johannesburg in order to be closer to her.

The witness said he expressed regret that his neighbour was leaving but added: "If it's for her, then it's worth it. That one's for keeps."

It was the first time the court had heard evidence the couple were apparently engaged.

Mr Nhlengethwa also spoke about the moment he arrived at Pistorius' house after the shooting and peered through the front door to find Pistorius kneeling over Ms Steenkamp.

"What I saw is difficult to explain," he said, telling the court he chose to wait outside as the scene was so distressing.

Pistorius is on trial in Pretoria, South Africa, accused of the premeditated murder of Ms Steenkamp.

The 27-year-old denies the charge, claiming he mistook her for an intruder at his home on the city's Silver Woods estate.

The case was adjourned at lunchtime after Ms Motshuane's evidence and will resume on Thursday, following a public holiday in South Africa.

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