Saturday 16 December 2017

Pistorius introduced Reeva as 'fiancee', says neighbour

A neighbour of Oscar Pistorius told Pretoria's High Court the athlete referred to Reeva Steenkamp as his 'fiancée' just hours before he shot her dead.

Michael Nhlengethwa, who was on the state witness list but was never called, told the court he met Ms Steenkamp for the first time on the Sunday before she died and Pistorius introduced her as "his fiancee".

Taking the stand, Mr Nhlengethwa said Ms Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, opened her arms and hugged him when they met, and he told Pistorius: "This one is for keeps."

"I don't think I will ever forget that moment," he added. "She just opened her arms. She just came and hugged me."

Mr Nhlengethwa, the athlete's closest neighbour, told Pretoria's High Court he was woken up by his wife, who heard a loud bang in the early hours of 14 February, followed by loud crying, and that he called security for help.

He said: "There is a difference between normal crying and crying when you are in danger, when you need help. We felt probably he was in danger. It was very loud."

Pressed by Pistorius's defence counsel, Barry Roux, Mr Nhlengethwa told the court he heard a "very high" voice. The athlete's legal team sought to corroborate Pistorius screams in a "high pitched" tone and his voice could be mistaken for a woman.

The Nhlengethwas' bedroom window is approximately 25 metres (80 feet) from the balcony doors of Pistorius's bedroom, much closer than neighbors called by prosecutors who said they heard a woman screaming on the night of the shooting.

Continuing his evidence, Mr Nhlengethwa described the gruesome scene he encountered when he arrived at Pistorius's house in the Silver Woods gated estate in Pretoria.

Mr Nhlengethwa told the court a visibly shaken Pistorius was crying and begging: "Please, please, help her". He said Pistorius was kneeling over Ms Steenkamp and there was "blood everywhere".

In cross-examination, Mr Nhlengethwa said he didn't hear shots, or "any sounds of that kind", and that he had not spoken to Pistorius since the shooting on Valentine's Day last year.

Yesterday, the court heard how the athlete carried the body down stairs a “broken” man, and neighbour Carice Viljoen said that she feared he was going to turn the gun on himself in the aftermath of the fatal shooting.

Pistorius is accused of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp following a domestic dispute in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. He claims he shot and killed his girlfriend in a case of mistaken identity, thinking she was an intruder.

South Africa does not have trial by jury, meaning Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide Pistorius' fate with the help of two assessors.

The murder trial continues.

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