PRETORIA, South Africa -- The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial broke down in tears Tuesday, saying she still remembers the terrified screams of a woman on the night the double-amputee athlete killed his girlfriend.
Michelle Burger, who lives near Pistorius' home and who had been composed through two days of grueling cross-examination, wept as she finished her testimony.
"When I'm in the shower, I relive her shouts," Burger said of hearing the woman screaming before the sound of gunshots early on Valentine's Day last year. Burger lives about 193 yards from Pistorius' house.
Earlier, the trial was interrupted and the judge ordered an investigation into allegations that a South African television channel was broadcasting a photograph of Burger during her testimony — against a court order guaranteeing privacy to witnesses who request it.
Burger's testimony about events on the night of Feb. 14, 2013, contradicts the Olympian's story. Pistorius says he shot four times through the toilet cubicle door, hitting Steenkamp three times in the head, arm and hip or side area after thinking she was a dangerous intruder. He pleaded not guilty to the murder charge lodged by prosecutors, who say the world-famous athlete intentionally killed Steenkamp after a loud argument.
During cross-examination of Burger, defense lawyer Barry Roux insisted the university lecturer was mistaken in saying that she heard a woman screaming and that she actually had heard Pistorius screaming for help in a high voice after accidentally shooting Steenkamp.
Pistorius faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before parole if convicted of murder with premeditation.
- The Associated Press
First published March 4 2014, 8:24 AM