JOHANNESBURG, 6 May-2014, WSJ: The next door neighbor to accused murderer Oscar Pistorius described Tuesday being woken by a noise and then hearing a man sobbing on the night the athlete killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day last year.
On Tuesday, Michael and Eontle Nhlengethwa, a husband and wife who live next to Mr. Pistorius in an upmarket gated community, described the high pitched cries of a man in the early hours of Feb. 14 last year. Mr. Nhlengethwa, a witness for the defense, was called to bolster Mr. Pistorius’s assertion that he didn’t know his girlfriend was inside the bathroom. Mr. Pistorius said his girlfriend didn’t make a sound and Mr. Nhlengethwa said Tuesday he never heard a woman.
Whether crying that neighbors reported hearing came from a man or woman is key to both sides of the case as they try to prove what happened that night.
Mr. Nhlengethwa said his wife woke him not long after 3 a.m. after she heard a bang. The couple then said they heard someone crying. While Mr. Nhlengethwa ran around the house to check that their daughter was safe, Mrs. Nhlengethwa said she went to her balcony and then heard a man crying for help three times. The couple said they heard no other noises.
The prosecution has charged the double amputee track star with premeditated murder. Mr. Pistorius says that he fired his 9mm pistol four times through a locked bathroom door because he believed a dangerous intruder was inside and not his girlfriend, 29-year old model Reeva Steenkamp. Ms. Steenkamp died when three of the bullets hit her hip, arm and head.
Other residents in the complex have testified that they heard “bloodcurdling” screams of a woman and two sets of bangs.
Mr. Nhlengethwa said the crying sounded like “the person was really desperate for help.” Both he and his wife said they thought the crying came from a man even though it was in a high pitch.
In a sign that South Africa’s sensational murder trial is nearing an end, Mr. Pistorius’s defense said Tuesday that it plans to finish calling witnesses early next week. The testimony Tuesday follows others from neighbors, police, an ex-girlfriend, forensic experts and the Paralympian himself.
The prosecution wrapped up its case and once the defense finishes next week both sides will present concluding arguments. The judge will then take time to review the material before coming to a verdict. South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
If found guilty of premeditated murder, Mr. Pistorius faces up to life in prison.