Pistorius introduced Steenkamp as his 'fiancee'

6th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

Oscar Pistorius introduced Reeva Steenkamp as his fiancee just a week before he shot her, a neighbour testified Tuesday, as the defence said it may close its case within a week.

Next-door neighbour Michael Nhlengethwa said that Pistorius had introduced the 29-year-old model as his wife-to-be, apparently supporting the athlete's claim he was in a serious and loving relationship.

Pistorius said "please meet my fiancee, Reeva," Nhlengethwa testified.

The Paralympic and Olympic athlete, nicknamed the "Blade Runner", is accused of shooting Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013 after a row, a charge he denies.

The trial started on March 3 and was originally slated to run for three weeks. But the prosecution closed its case only on March 25 as the court proceeded at a snail's pace.

Since Pistorius's own lengthy testimony and cross-examination the trial has moved at a faster clip.

Speedy cross-examinations have seen the case cover ground rapidly and defence lawyer Barry Roux said he could close within a week.

"I even believe we may end the defence case by Tuesday next week," Roux told the court.

"I hope so because I have other duties waiting for me,"said Judge Thokozile Masipa.

When the trial restarted from a two-week break Monday, the manager of the upmarket Pretoria housing complex where Pistorius lived testified to finding the athlete a broken man when he arrived on the scene.

On Tuesday, testimony returned to the shouts and loud bangs that woke up neighbours in the pre-dawn hours that day.

The sequence of events, and who actually cried out, are key to establishing what happened on February 14, 2013.

In emotional testimony Nhlengethwa, Pistorius's closest neighbour, described going to the sprinter's home to investigate sounds of crying and saw Steenkamp being taken out of the house on a stretcher.

"At that moment I knew she was no more," he said.

Earlier he had woken up to a man's cries.

"A man was crying very loud," he said, "it was crying when you were in danger, when you need help."

Roux asked the witness if the voice was low- or high-pitched.

"You said a man's voice, was it a low pitch?" asked Roux.

"It was a very high pitch voice," replied Nhlengethwa.

The defence claims that Steenkamp never screamed the night she was shot, alleging witnesses heard Pistorius screaming like a woman under the effect of stress.

The sprinter fired four bullets through a locked lavatory door, killing Steenkamp who was in the cubicle inside his house in the capital Pretoria.

Nhlengethwa's wife, Eontle, said she woke up after hearing a "bang" in the night, followed by a man crying and shouting "help, help, help!"

"Is it possible you could make a sound to resemble it?" said Roux.

She then made a haunting, shrill wail from the witness stand.

Pistorius, who has retched and sobbed in court, kept his head in his hands as he listened to his neighbours' testimony.

Once the defence has closed its case the trial will move to concluding arguments, the verdict and possible sentencing.

Pistorius faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty of premeditated murder.


© 2014 AFP

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