THE second day of Oscar Pistorius's murder trial was dramatically interrupted today amidst allegations that a South African television channel was broadcasting a photograph of a witness – in breach of a court order guaranteeing privacy to witnesses who request it.
Judge Thokozile Masipa at the high court in Pretoria warned the media to respect the ruling that images of witnesses who request privacy should not be shown. She called the revelation "very disturbing".
"An investigation is to follow to find out exactly what is happening. This may just be the tip of the iceberg," said Judge Masipa.
The witness, Michelle Burger, lives close to Pistorius's house and told the court she heard a woman screaming on the night the Olympic athlete killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp last year, leading him to be charged with murder.
South African television station eNCA was broadcasting a live audio feed of university lecturer Ms Burger's evidence with a still photograph of her, prosecutor Gerrie Nel said in court. He said the photo was captioned: "On the stand: Michelle Burger, Pistorius neighbour."
Mr Nel said eNCA contacted the court clerk to ask if it could run a photograph of the witness that it had obtained from outside the court. The court said no, Mr Nel said.
"They still went ahead and did it," the prosecutor said.
Mr Nel said the outlet found the photo "somewhere else".
The development came less than 30 minutes into today's proceedings when Mr Nel interrupted Pistorius's lawyer, Barry Roux, during his cross-examination of Ms Burger, saying he had just been informed that her image was being shown on TV.
The judge adjourned the proceedings and Ms Burger immediately left the room.
When the judge returned after meeting with the two sides in her chambers, she ruled that there would be an investigation and instructed that no photographs may be shown of any witness who requests privacy.