Three of the people who live in houses right next to Oscar Pistorius, in Pretoria’s Silver Woods Estate, have given evidence in the North Gauteng High Court stating that they did not hear screams the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed. All the neighbors heard was a loud bang and the sounds of a man crying very loudly.
First on the witness stand on Tuesday May 6 was Michael Nhlengethwa who said he and Pistorius shared a passion for cars. He also told the court that he had met Reeva the weekend before her death, and that the world-famous blade runner had introduced her as his fiancée. In addition, Pistorius told him that he would be moving to Johannesburg in March 2014 because he wanted to be closer to Reeva. In response, Nhlengethwa said he commented to Pistorius, “this one is for keeps.”
In the early hours of February 14, 2013, Nhlengethwa said he was woken by his wife who said she had heard a bang. Then he heard a man crying very loudly; it sounded as if the person was in danger and needed help. The voice was “very high pitched,” he told the court. While several state witnesses have claimed to have heard a woman screaming early that morning, the defense case is the it was Pistorius they heard, because he “screams like a woman.” However, the three neighbors who gave evidence on Tuesday were all adamant they only heard a man crying, and nobody screaming.
Nhlengethwa said he wanted to go and investigate the noises but his wife would not let him go out of the house. He said he thought it might be a neighbor in trouble, or possibly one of the security guards in the estate crying out. Not long after a vehicle drew up outside Pistorius’ house and Nhlengethwa went outside. The man (whom he discovered was Pistorius) was still crying, though his “tone” was lower. He said he saw Johan Stander, the estate manager, outside and “asked if Oscar was okay.“ Stander told him what had happened, and when he saw the medics walk out of the house with the stretcher, he said he knew that Reeva “was gone.” He went back into his own house because there was nothing he could do.
Under cross-examination by State Advocate Gerrie Nel, Nhlengethwa confirmed that neither he nor his wife had heard more than one bang or the sounds of Pistorius breaking down a door with a cricket bat. Questioned about the crying he had heard, and the fact that he had never mentioned hearing someone “screaming,” he explained that in his mother tongue there were different ways of describing crying and screaming. He confirmed that he did not hear screams.
Nhlengethwa’s wife Eontle, was another of the Oscar Pistorius neighbors who did not hear screams the night the Olympian athlete killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Giving evidence in Tshwana (which was translated into English by an official court interpreter), she said she was woken up by a very loud noise that sounded like a “bang.” After waking her husband, she heard a man shout for help. He sounded “very hurt” and in need of “urgent assistance,” she said. At this stage Pistorius could be seen in the courtroom with his head in hands, leaning forward as if not wanting to hear what the witnesses were saying.
Eontle Nhlengethwa said she did not leave the bedroom, and did not hear any more “bang” sounds. She said she never heard a woman screaming, but described the sound of a man “crying” and said it sound like a “cry of pain.” She confirmed that she had woken up her husband up and asked if he had heard the same sound. When he said that he had also heard it, she said she began to panic and wondered whether one of the security guards on the estate had been shot.
She said the dogs were barking and they were frightened. “The crying was very loud and very close.” In fact, she continued in her testimony, it was so close she considered it might have been in her own house.
A third neighbor, Rika Motshuane said she was woken up by the sound of a man crying, which she thought was “a cry of pain.” She said woke husband and asked if he had heard the sound. “He said he had also heard it. I thought I was dreaming, and started panicking.” She told her the voice could have been a security guard who had been shot. Dogs in the neighborhood were barking and they were both very frightened. “The crying was very loud and very close.” Questioned by Advocate Barry Roux about the pitch of the voice, she said it was “very loud.” He then asked her to try to replicate the crying, and she screamed in a high pitch.
Motshuane said she had “so many thoughts,” and was wondering what could have happened. They both sat on the bed, frozen with fear. Eventually her husband called security and they said they were “taking care of the situation.” She said they did not leave their house, but were aware that the incident had taken place in their neighbour, Oscar Pistorius’ house.
Adjourning before lunch, Barry Roux said that he believed the defense case would be concluded by Tuesday next week (May 13), which is exactly 15 months since Oscar Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home.
By Penny Swift