Pistorius trial: Witnesses hear shots, screams

The so-called trial of the decade began in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

Oscar Pistorius on the second day of his murder trial on 4 March 2014 at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - The Oscar Pistorious murder trial on Tuesday heard testimony from three state witnesses who all claim they heard screams and gunshots from the athlete's home on the day he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The so-called trial of the decade began in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp at his luxury home in Pretoria East back in February 2013.

He also pleaded not guilty to gun-related charges.

Oscar Pistorius is escorted into the Pretoria High Court ahead of the second day of his murder trial on 4 March 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

The witnesses are all neighbours who claim to have been woken up in the early hours of the day in question.

The state's first witness Michelle Burger broke down in the dock today when she was asked about her emotional state on the day she gave her statement.

"I told them everything I heard and I said to them, it's very difficult for me. When I am in the shower, I relive her shouts."

Burger was followed by Estelle van der Merwe who appeared nervous and spoke softly.

She corroborated testimony that two voices were heard on the morning of the shooting.

Speaking through a translator, van der Merwe told the court she knows the difference between a man and woman's voice.

Burger's husband, Charl Johnson, was the final witness for the day.

Johnson and Burger live in Silver Stream Estate, which is adjacent to the Silver Woods Country Estate, where the deadly shooting took place.

The couple has a direct line of sight to Pistorius's multimillion rand property.

He backed up his wife's testimony saying there were two separate voices and screams, which sounded distressful.

"I could hear she was in trouble. They were clearly distress calls."

Johnson told the court at first, he didn't want to involve himself in such a high-profile matter but eventually realised it was important he give his account.

Defence advocate Barry Roux attempted to prove Burger is not reliable, arguing her statement had striking similarities to that of her husband's.

Proceedings wrapped up this afternoon with similar scenes of people swarming around the athlete's car as he left the court.

Oscar Pistorius leaves the Pretoria High Court under heavy security after the second day of his murder trial on 4 March 2014. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

Meanwhile, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it's satisfied with the progress made so far in the trial and is relieved there haven't been any postponements.

The NPA's Nathi Mncube says good progress has been made.

"We also wanted to get some formal admissions recorded, which sort of curtails the process. So I think we made some good progress yesterday and of course today, we were on our third witness."

SOUND TESTS CONDUCTED

The defence on Tuesday revealed what will potentially be the crux of its attack on the state's case, the reliability and credibility of their witnesses.

It emerged Pistorius's lawyers will rely on expert witnesses to debunk the testimony of the athlete's neighbours, who claim they heard screams followed by gunshots.

Roux says they conducted tests as recently as two weeks ago, to see how far sound travels from the athlete's house.

Advocate Barry Roux (centre) walks to his chambers in the Pretoria High Court with the rest of Oscar Pistorius's legal legal team on 4 March 2014. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

Oscar Pistorius in conversation with his legal team Barry Roux (left) and Kenny Oldwage (right) on the second day of his murder trial in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on 4 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

The advocate said this was done between 1am and 2am in the morning.

Experts wanted to establish how far sounds would travel.

Roux believes the neighbours heard Pistorius screaming, when he was breaking down the bathroom door with a cricket bat, which he claims could also have been interpreted as gunshots.

The state has 107 witnesses lined up for the trial.

QUALITY OF INTERPRETATION IN SPOTLIGHT

The quality of the interpretation from Afrikaans to English in the trial has been raised in Parliament with calls for Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to investigate.

Burger on Monday told the court that some of the words she used were interpreted incorrectly.

Eventually, Burger volunteered to testify in English as much as she could.

Congress of the People MP Julie Kilian told the National Assembly this afternoon that the high-profile trial of the Paralympian and Olympic athlete means the eyes of the world are focused on South Africa and its justice system.

"Yesterday was the perfect chance to demonstrate to the whole world that our courts are not dysfunctional but the inability to get that [interpretation] right was a lost opportunity."

Kilian says many ordinary South Africans might also be affected by problems with court interpreters.

"Our courts are dogged by numerous problems resulting in cases taking too long to finalise. How many other courts are dogged by interpreter problems?"

Last year, a scandal erupted at former president Nelson Mandela's memorial service at FNB Stadium when translator Thamsanqa Jantjies suffered what he described as a schizophrenic episode. He was accused of making references to prawns and rocking horses instead of displaying what speakers were saying.