Oscar Pistorius trial: First witness testifies

Michelle Burger, who lives in the complex next door to where the shooting took place, is testifying.

Oscar Pistorius walks past June Steenkamp as he enters the High Court in Pretoria on the first day of his murder trial. Picture: Sapa.

PRETORIA - The Oscar Pistorius murder trial has taken its first break for an early lunch.

Just before the break, the first witness testified in the trial.

The State prosecution team asked the judge that first witness, Michelle Burger, not be filmed or photographed, as per the clause in the judgment allowing broadcast of the trial.

Live audio of her testimony has been allowed.

Burger, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, lives in Silver Stream Estate, a complex bordering the Silver Woods Estate where the shooting took place.

She stated she has never met Pistorius. She is testifying to the events that took place when Reeva Steenkamp was killed.

Burger is testifying in Afrikaans, which explains the necessary delay in waiting for the interpreter.


"I share my home with my husband and have lived there since 2011.

"I woke up just after 3am to the sounds of a woman screaming. I sat up in bed. My husband also woke up.

"My husband ran to the balcony. I sat in bed. She screamed for help.

"I then I heard a man scream three times for help.

"I called security on my phone. My husband came back in to the room.

"I told security to call Silver Woods Estate because there had been an attack on a house.

"My husband explained to security that people next door were being attacked.

"My husband went back the balcony. I heard more screams, more intense.

"As the screams climaxed, I heard the gunshots.

"Bang, bang, bang, bang. There was a longer pause between number 1 and 2 than between number 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. My lady, I was not there with a stopwatch, but I can tell you that the pause was longer.

"My husband returned from the balcony. I was still in bed. I said I hoped that that woman had not seen her husband killed."


When proceedings began earlier, prosecutor Gerrie Nel called the case and the accused.

Nel read out the charges and Pistorius pleaded not guilty to each of the charges, which included a charge of murder and three other gun-related charges.

Pistorius's defence advocate, Kenny Oldwage, gave an explanation on why Pistorius pleaded not guilty.

Before Nel read the admissions into record, Pistorius's defence team led by advocate Kenny Oldwage read a plea explanation on behalf of his client.

When proceedings began, Nel read out the charges and Pistorius pleaded not guilty to each of them, which included a charge of murder and three other gun-related charges.

Speaking via Oldwage, Pistorius denies murdering Steenkamp in the strongest terms saying at the time of the "tragic accident" they were in a loving relationship.

"I mistakenly believed that Reeva was an intruder, and posed an imminent threat to me and Reeva."

He also disputes a neighbour's claims that she could hear an argument between him and Steenkamp.

Pistorius submits that the state has conceded on certain facts related to his location in the bathroom and whether he was on his stumps.

Pistorius says the scene was contaminated, disturbed and tampered with.

He says his legal counsel will object to the state's attempt to lead inadmissible character evidence.

He also believes the state will attempt to admit evidence in an attempt to assassinate his character.

Oldwage concluded, entering the plea explanation into the record and Pistorius confirmed what was read.

Nel has told the court he will read the admissions into the record.

The legal battle is being described as the trial of the decade.


The trial began 1 hour and 30 minutes behind schedule.

Officials said Judge Thokozile Masipa was ready, but there was a problem with one interpreter.

A court official addressed the public gallery saying that a problem with an Afrikaans-to-English interpreter had delayed proceedings, but this was being addressed.

It's understood the prosecution and the defence met the judge in her chambers.

Earlier, a woman known only as Annamarie attempted to disrupt the trial, saying she would lodge an application for the matter to be postponed.

This woman had made similar attempts during the bail application last year and the media access hearing last week.

Court security and police orderlies eventually led Annamarie out of the courtroom, but she told reporters she would speak to the judge.

Prior to the disruption, both the legal teams for the defence and prosecution appeared ready.

Carl and Aimee Pistorius (from left) in the Pretoria High Court.

Pistorius had taken up his seat in the dock, while his relatives including his Uncle Arnold, brother Carl and sister Aimee sat behind him.

Steenkamp's mother June, her daughter Simone and the family's lawyers are seated in the gallery behind the prosecution team.

Reeva Steenkamp's mother June (left) in the courtroom of the Pretoria High Court. Picture: Pool.