Pistorius trial: Nearest neighbour testifies

Oscar Pistorius’s immediate neighbour Michael Nhlengethwa is testifying in the trial.

Oscar Pistorius enters the High Court in Pretoria ahead of his murder trial on 6 May 2014. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

PRETORIA - The Oscar Pistorius murder trial began this morning with the athlete's immediate neighbour in proximity, Michael Raymond Nhlengethwa, testifying.

The defence team led evidence as it winds down its case in the trial.

The athlete is accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp during the early hours of 14 February 2013.

Picture: Carte Blanche.

He faces charges of premeditated murder, two separate firearm related charges and one of illegal possession of ammunition.

Picture: Sky News.

When his trial began, he pleaded not guilty to all charges and during his testimony claimed to have shot and killed Steenkamp after thinking she was an intruder.

RELATIONSHIP WITH PISTORIUS & STEENKAMP

Defence advocate Barry Roux began proceedings this morning by questioning Nhlengethwa about his relationship with Pistorius.

Picture: Pool.

He said the Paralympian was the first person to welcome him when he moved into the estate.

"We had a good neighbourly relationship, but we did not socialise with each other. When Oscar spotted me in the street he would stop and get out of his car to greet me."

He said the accused loved cars and when he bought a new one he would stop by his house and show it to him.

Nhlengethwa claimed to have met Steenkamp once on the Sunday before she was shot and killed.

"He stopped outside my house with a BMW. Oscar wanted to introduce her to me. I put out my hand to greet her, but she instead put out her arms and hugged me."

The witness claimed he was taken by Steenkamp as the above gesture spoke volumes about her personality.

"I even told Oscar that this one is for keeps."

'WE HEARD A MAN CRYING VERY LOUD'

Nhlengethwa took the court through his account of the morning of the shooting.

"My wife woke me up saying she heard a bang and wasn't sure whether it was inside or outside the house. I got up and went to check on my daughter. I then checked the house and the doors, the ground floor."

He continued telling the court how after he made sure his family and house was safe, he told his wife that the noise was from outside.

"While talking to my wife we heard a man crying very loud. We were shocked. Not sure what was happening. The cry that we heard was of a person who was desperate and probably in danger. It was a loud voice, and very high-pitched."

Nhlengethwa said he made out the words from the cries to be "no, please no…".

He called security at 3:16am and asked for help.

"While I was on the phone I could hear the crying going on. I then heard the sound of a car. The security bakkie pulled in to the Stipp's driveway, before leaving a short while later."

He testified that he then saw a car leaving the Stipp's house, but went in the opposite direction to the security vehicle.

"This made me realise that the emergency was not at the Stipp's house. I looked out the study window and saw the security bakkie pull in front of Oscar's house."

Nhlengethwa told the court he realised it was then safe to go outside.

"I told my wife it was either Oscar's house or another neighbour. I walked towards Oscar's house. I identified the security vehicle and Stipp's vehicle."

'OSCAR WAS KNEELING OVER A LADY'

Nhlengethwa told the court how he continued hearing the cries on his way to Pistorius's house.

"I greeted Johan Stander and asked, "Is Oscar okay? Stander said Oscar was okay, but we should check on him. We went towards the house."

He said he found Pistorius "kneeling over a lady. He was crying. He was pleading with Stipp to help him. I could see it was bad. I could not watch".

Picture: Pool.

Nhlengethwa said he helped the paramedics open the double doors at the entrance to the house.

"I was there for a few more minutes before going home. I was approached by the police on the morning of 14 February 2013."

POLICE CONDUCT

The neighbour, who the court understands to be the closest in proximity to Pistorius's house, said he did not like the way in which police had approached him.

"This policeman asked me, 'Hey brother, what happened here?' I told him police if they wanted to talk to me, he would have to make a proper meeting."

Nhlengethwa said two policewomen approached him the next day and he was still not satisfied with their conduct.

"I told the officers that they expected me to drop everything to speak to them. I said they should arrange a proper meeting."

He said he was then approached by Captain Mike Van Aardt.

"I was now satisfied with his approach and conduct and I agreed to a meeting."

Picture: EWN.

While he gave his statement to van Aardt, he said his wife was cooking.

Van Aardt then wanted a statement from his wife.

"I was reluctant to allow van Aardt to take a statement from my wife. But after being put at ease, she gave her statement."

Nhlengethwa's wife heard a person screaming for help three times while he did not hear this.

Roux concluded the examination and state prosecutor Gerrie Nel began his cross-examination.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

During cross-examination, Nhlengethwa explained he did not hear any shots or sounds which could have been Pistorius breaking down the door with the bat.

Nel asked if he heard anyone scream.

Nhlengethwa then began explaining the crying he heard.

"I could not relate the crying to anyone. Not Oscar or any of the other neighbours. I never heard a woman scream. Nor did I hear blood-curdling screams."

Nhlengethwa also said he did not hear the gunshots at 3:17am.

"I did not discuss the incident with anyone at the scene. Even at the scene I was not sure of what exactly had happened."

Nel went back to the cricket bat sounds.

"It is the defence's case that a bat striking a door sounds like a gunshot. You did not hear this?"

The witness claimed he did not and with this, Nel concluded his cross-examination.

Nhlengethwa's wife was then called to the stand.

Video: Pistorius was broken.