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Oscar Pistorius trial witness: Screams sounded like 'family murder'

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The murder trial of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius on Monday heard more testimony that a terrified woman screamed the night that the athlete shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The athlete’s defense team has argued that no one screamed the night of the shooting except for Pistorius. His defense advocate, Barry Roux, earlier suggested that Pistorius sounds like a woman when he screams.

Five witnesses, including Monday’s witness, Anette Stipp, have testified they heard a woman scream in the early hours of Feb. 14 last year when the athlete killed his girlfriend.

Stipp also testified she saw a light on in the bathroom — another contradiction with Pistorius’ case. The athlete’s version of events is that the bathroom was dark when he fired four shots through the door, killing Steenkamp.

Pistorius has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge, claiming that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar.

Stipp told the court she had been lying awake with a cold when she heard what sounded like three gunshots.

"It was moments after the shots I heard a lady screaming, terrified, terrified screaming,” Stipp, an occupational therapist, testified. “The screaming just continued. It did not stop.” Earlier in the trial, another witness, university lecturer Michelle Burger, described the “blood curdling screams” of a petrified woman.

Stipp testified she told her husband she thought the sound was a domestic murder.

"I said to him, 'I’m sure it’s a family murder. Why else would a woman be screaming like that?' He said, 'Well if it is, I’m going to see if I can help, because there might be children involved.'"

She said her husband got dressed while trying to call the police — the emergency police number didn’t answer. Then he called the private security guards on duty at the secure gated estate where the Stipps and Pistorius lived, she said.

Stipp said she was on the balcony listening to the continuous female screams when she heard a man screaming at the same time. She couldn’t make out the words. Then she heard three more sounds like shots, she told the court.

“My husband screamed at me to get inside because we did not know where the shots were coming from,” she testified.

After the second group of shots, the screaming stopped, according to Stipp. Shortly afterward, her husband left and went to the Pistorius house.

Kenneth Oldwadge, a lawyer for Pistorius, got Stipp to admit to an error in her initial statement to police. She first told authorities that she saw a man moving in the bathroom.

Stipp’s husband, Johan Stipp, also previously testified to having seen a man moving in the bathroom at the time of the killing.

The couple's testimony was at odds over the lighting in Pistorius apartment at the time of the shooting. Anette Stipp said both the bathroom and toilet light were on. Johan Stipp earlier told the court the light in the bathroom was on but not the room with the toilet. Pistorius has stated that the toilet light was not working on the night of the shooting, a defense lawyer said.

Anette Stipp told the court she heard two sets of three gunshots, however the prosecution and defense agree only four shots were fired. Throughout the trial, Pistorius' legal team has contended that a second set of bangs was Pistorius bashing down the toilet door with a cricket bat to get to Steenkamp.

Oldwadge also suggested that Stipp’s view from her bedroom of the Pistorius house was obscured by a pillar or curtain, but she denied that was the case.

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimesdixon

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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