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Pistorius defence tears into first witness

Lawyers for murder-accused Oscar Pistorius launched an aggressive defence on day one of his murder trial Monday, tearing into a witness who claimed to have heard screams as his girlfriend was killed.

Advocate Barry Roux repeatedly and pointedly challenged Pistorius’ neighbour and university lecturer Michelle Burger, picking at potential inconsistences in her account.

Burger had earlier testified that she heard “bloodcurdling screams” come from the house less than 200 metres (yards) away, before gunshots were fired.

“I heard petrified screaming before the gunshots, and just after the gunshots.”

That sequence of events supports the prosecution’s allegation that Pistorius murdered the model and law graduate after a fight.

Pistorius earlier pleaded not guilty to that charge, claiming he shot his nine millimetre pistol at the toilet door believing there was an intruder, and that Steenkamp was in bed.

Roux grilled Burger over the number of gunshots heard, asking why she heard four shots and her husband, who is yet to testify, reported hearing more.

“Was your husband right when he said five or six shots?” pressed Roux.

“I’m certain I have heard four gun shots, I don’t speak on my husband’s behalf,” said Burger.

“How do you know your husband will be honest?” Roux asked at one point.

Burger responded tersely: “My husband and I are together for 20 years and I know him to be honest.”

Roux repeatedly asked if Burger believed Pistorius was lying.

“I did not understand why Pistorius did not hear the screams,” she said.

Roux also accused Burger of changing her account on the hoof.

“You are not sure and what you are now doing, you are adapting, you are speculating, you are trying to close all the gaps,” he said occasionally raising his voice.