Pistorius trial: Pressure mounts on key witnesses

Defence Advocate Barry Roux is hoping to find cracks in the testimony of two key state witnesses.

Oscar Pistorius and defence advocate Barry Roux at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on 5 March 2014. Picture: Pool.

PRETORIA - The defence in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial is increasing pressure on two key state witnesses in the hope of finding cracks in their accounts of what happened on the morning the athlete shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.

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

On the first day of the trial, 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.

Defence Advocate Barry Roux told the Pretoria court he can prove that a married couple did not hear gunshots on Valentine's Day last year.

A screenshot from inside the court shows Advocate Barry Roux at the High Court in Pretoria on 5 March 2014.

Burger also testified that she heard screams and gunshots coming from the athlete's home.

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

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

But Roux is adamant that Johnson and Burger only heard the sound of a bat being used to break down the bathroom door and not gunshots.

He says this can be proved by the phone call made by Johnson to a security company and the call for help made by Pistorius shortly thereafter.

Roux says the calls were barely two minutes apart and by that stage, Pistorius had just broken down the door with his cricket bat.

Johnson however maintains that he heard gunshots.

His testimony will be scrutinised on Thursday, when Roux plans to argue his statement is too similar to his wife's and that the couple discussed the matter before testifying.

Meanwhile, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane stood outside the court and called on women in the province to rally behind the Steenkamp family.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane atOscar Pistorius murder trial at the High Court in Pretoria on 5 March 2014. Picture: AFP.

She arrived wearing a badge bearing a picture of model's face.

Mokonyane said she was there to support the Steenkamp's parents.

"Suddenly, everyone has forgotten about the killing of Reeva [Steenkamp]."

LERENA SETS RECORD STRAIGHT

Professional boxer Kevin Lerena, who also testified today, has taken to Facebook to set the record straight about his involvement in the matter.

Lerena testified about a meeting at Tashas restaurant in Melrose Arch where a firearm Pistorius was handling went off.

Kevin Lerena testifies during the third day of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on 5 March 2014.

The shooting at the northern Johannesburg restaurant allegedly took place in January 2013.

The establishment was apparently packed when the gun was discharged.

Lerena posted on his Facebook page on Monday that he's been receiving many questions about whose side he is on in the trial.

He said there are no sides in this matter and that two families have been seriously affected by the shooting.

The boxer announced to his Facebook friends that he has been called to court to answer questions and not to discredit Pistorius.

He received at least a dozen responses, most of them wishing him luck.

Lerena testified about how Pistorius handled a firearm under a table in the busy restaurant before it went off.

He said he met Pistorius through mutual friend, Justin Divaris.

Lerena said the pair were meeting at the restaurant, along with two other friends, to discuss a training programme.

Lerena said a shot went off and ricocheted off the floor.

He said the 'Blade Runner' profusely apologised for the incident.

Lerena also told the court the athlete asked a friend to take the blame to avoid media attention.

No one was injured in the incident.

Lerena concluded his testimony and has been excused by the judge.

Meanwhile, Pistorius is expected to argue that he was trying to make the handgun safe when it went off.

Roux said his client was initially shocked and then upset with Fresco for passing him a loaded weapon.

He said Pistorius was interested in buying a similar handgun and wanted to inspect Fresco's.

Roux said after taking the firearm, Pistorius opened the breech to ensure it was safe and at that moment it fired.

The advocate said it was noisy at the time, so the athlete was unable to hear the gunowner tell him that there was a bullet in the chamber.

The prosecution's fifth witness was the owner of Tashas restaurant Jason Loupis.

He told the court Pistorius and his three friends all apologised for the shooting and confirmed the athlete did not return to the establishment after the incident.

Loupis's wife, Maria, also testified on Wednesday afternoon before the matter was adjourned.

The case will resume on Thursday morning.

The state has 107 witnesses lined up for the trial.

IRISH BETTING SITE WITHDRAWS AD

British advertising regulators have ordered Irish bookmaker Paddy Power to withdraw its controversial advert in which money is offered back to punters if Pistorius is found not guilty of murder, the _ Guardian _ reported on Wednesday.

The controversial advert features a photograph of Pistorius mocked up as an Academy Award statuette with the slogan "It's Oscar time. Money back if he walks."

The Guardian reports that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a record 5,200 complaints about the press ads.

The ASA said the strength of the public outcry forced it to take the "unusual step" of telling Paddy Power to pull the ad immediately.

An EWN video on the law relating to the Oscar Pistorius trial.