Pistorius defence to resume attack on key state witness

Lawyers for Paralympian Oscar Pistorius will on Tuesday resume a searing cross-examination of a key witness at his murder trial who claims to have heard screams, then shots, as his girlfriend was killed.

The second day of Pistorius's trial for the Valentine's Day killing of Reeva Steenkamp will begin with lawyer Barry Roux redoubling efforts to pick apart the prosecution's premier witness.

Neighbour Michelle Burger testified Monday that she heard "bloodcurdling" screams at the home less than 200 metres (yards) away from her own, before shots rang out in the early hours of February 14, 2013.

The sequence of events, if accurate, would undermine the Paralympic gold medallist's claim that he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

Pistorius, 27, a double amputee known as the "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fibre running blades, pleaded not guilty to murder and three unrelated gun charges on the opening day of the trial.

In a statement read out by his lawyer Kenny Oldwage, the sprinter described Steenkamp's death as a "tragic accident".

While admitting killing the 29-year-old model and law graduate, he denied murderous intent. "This allegation is denied in the strongest terms," he said. "We were in a loving relationship."

If found guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius faces 25 years in South Africa's notoriously brutal jails and an abrupt end to his glittering sporting career.
 

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