Oscar weeps as he relives it all

05 March 2014 - 02:12 By Graeme Hosken

Gruesome evidence - about bullet shards tearing through a skull and screams for help - left murder accused Oscar Pistorius and a state witness overcome with emotion as they relived what are thought to have been Reeva Steenkamp's final moments of life.

On the second day of Pistorius's three-week murder trial, his defence went on the attack, grilling witness Michelle Burger.

In her opening testimony the day before, Burger, a Pretoria University lecturer, claimed to have woken to "blood-curdling" and "petrified" screams for help followed by four gunshots on the night Pistorius fatally shot Steenkamp.

It was this testimony that advocate Barry Roux questioned Burger on repeatedly, until prosecutor Gerrie Nel accused him of badgering the witness and Judge Thokozile Masipa told him he had "exhausted his point".

Nel, fighting back on Burger's behalf, asked her how traumatic it had been hearing the screams.

Burger, losing self-control, broke down in tears.

"I listened to a woman die. I listened to her petrified screams for help, life-threatening, petrifying."

Burger said she relived the screams of terror: "Every day . it comes back to me. Those terrifying calls for help. Those screams, those terrible, terrible screams."

In his cross-examination, a sarcastic Roux, at times apparently frustrated by Burger's answers and "lack of concession" to the accused's version of events, eventually turned to state forensic evidence to dispute her testimony.

"You claimed you heard a 'woman' screaming during the shots, but it could not be . for two reasons. The shots in the bathroom with the woman in the locked toilet and [a] closed window make it impossible to hear screams over the gunshots. You claim you heard anxiety, fear and emotion in the screams coinciding with the shots . all in a single moment.

"How loud is shooting? You have been to a shooting range . you testified to this. We invite the state to test where you can hear the screams. We await the results."

Referring to Burger's testimony that she had heard both a woman and man calling for help prior to the shooting, Roux said: "It is inconsistent if a man is about to kill his girlfriend with a firearm and she runs away, for him to call for help in the same sequence of events."

Pistorius began weeping when Roux, hammering home his point on inconsistencies and lack of concessions in Burger's responses, cited evidence given by the state's ballistics expert.

Clutching his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking as he battled to find tissues in his laptop bag, Pistorius listened as Roux described in detail how the final bullet had silenced Steenkamp.

Shaking his head, he held tissues to his eyes as Roux said the state's ballistics evidence showed that the impact of the shards of the bullet to her head would have "dropped" her to the ground.

"The total number of shots would not have allowed her to scream. She could not have screamed. You made up your mind that Oscar's version couldn't be correct, that the cricket bat he used to bash open the toilet door couldn't be the gunshots [you heard] and that his anxious screams for help could not be her cries," Roux said.

"You go so far as to call it a mockery, with no facts . refusing to make concessions without the given facts," he said.

Providing further details on the sequence of shots, the prosecutor said it was the fourth that had hit Steenkamp in the head.

"The first three hit her in the side, her shoulder and the wall. It was the fourth which hit her head. The fourth which killed her."

Proceedings continue today.

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