True crime and trial opinions from a layman's perspective
The first witness today is Mike Nhlegenthwa. I will refer to him as Mike. He is Oscar’s next door neighbor and lives at #287 Bushwillow Crescent. His profession is civil engineering.
He moved in to the estates in 2009. Oscar was already living there. The builder who was working on Mike’s house introduced him to Oscar. Mike went inside Oscar’s house to get an idea of the finishes that were available. Oscar was the first person to welcome him to the neighborhood.
Their relationship was just a friendly neighbor relationship. They did not socialize together. Mike said every time Oscar would drive by, he’d get out of his car to greet Mike and they would chat. They shared a common interest in cars.
Mike did have the opportunity to meet Reeva once. It was the Sunday prior to the shooting. That day, Oscar was driving a white BMW. He stopped to say hello to Mike and said he wanted to introduce him to somebody. He called for Reeva to come out. Mike stretched out his hand to shake her hand and instead Reeva hugged him. He was really touched by that and thought it was a clear indication of the type of person she was.
Mike also said that when Oscar introduced Reeva, he introduced her as his fiancé. At that point, Reeva gave them some space and went back to the car. Mike said to Oscar, “this one is for keeps.” Oscar told Mike that he was moving to Johannesburg to be closer to her. Mike said it would be sad to lose a neighbor like him, but if it’s for her, then it’s worth it. As they were getting ready to leave, Reeva came back over and gave him another hug. Mike’s comments bring a small smile to June’s face.
They look at an aerial photo of the neighborhood and you can see Mike’s house # 287 to the left of Oscar’s house, if you are looking at it from the front.
Then they look at an aerial photo of the back of the homes and you can see Mike’s house on the right from this view. The red arrows in the photo point out the distances from Mike’s balcony to Oscar’s bedroom balcony, as well as his bathroom windows.
The beginning of Mike’s balcony that can be seen at the very right of this photo is actually his daughter’s room. His bedroom is further to the right (not seen on this photo) at the far end of the balcony.
On Feb 13, 2013, he was home with his wife and children. They went to bed between 10-11pm that night. In the early hours of the morning he was woken up by his wife who said she heard a “bang”. She wasn’t sure if it was inside or outside. He sat up to listen and went to check on his daughter. They always locked their doors at night, and hers was still locked when he checked it. He then checked the rest of the house including the downstairs. He went back upstairs and said he didn’t find anything so it must have been outside.
He then looked out the blinds of his window and didn’t see anything. As he was talking to his wife, he started hearing a man crying very loudly. They knew something was wrong either with a neighbor or perhaps a security guard. He did not turn on any lights because he did not want to be seen looking out the window.
Mike describes that the way the man cried was how somebody cries when they are desperate for help. He assumed the person was in danger. He says it was a very high-pitched cry. He didn’t know which side it was coming from. The only words he could make out from the crying were “no, please, no, no.”
Mike said he wanted to go out to check but his wife would not allow him. So instead he phoned security.
Phones records show that his first call to security was at 3:16:13 but it did not go through. His next call to security was at 3:16:36 and he did get through this time. The call was 44 seconds long. Mike spoke to the guard and informed him that he was at #287 Bushwillow. He asked him to come quickly to his house because he heard a man crying desperately for help. He also told him to check the neighbors around him.
After the phone call, he could still hear the crying.
He then heard the sound of a car coming up the street. When he checked through the blinds, he could see the police buggy over at Stipp’s house.
Mike did not know Dr. Stipp at the time of the incident. He saw security talking to the people at the house, so he assumed the problem was there. But not more than a minute after, he saw the police buggy drive out of the driveway. A person from that house also drove his car out of the garage. They drove in separate directions. Remember, Dr. Stipp testified that he first went to the police gate to make sure it was ok for him to drive to Oscar’s house and Baba drove directly to Oscar’s to check it out.
He then said to his wife that two cars are driving off, which means it must not be at that house. He saw the cars coming closer to them. Mike then walked over to his study which faces the front of his house. He looked through the blinds and saw the buggy at Oscar’s house. At this point, he knew that it would be safer to go. He told his wife he was going.
Mike got dressed and went next door. Roux asks about the lighting in his house. Mike said at the time he went out, he switched on the lights on the ground floor of his house. He mentioned that some of the lights in the house are a bit faint and they sleep with those lights on but to see better he had to switch on more downstairs.
Remember, Annette Stipp testified that there were upstairs lights on at Mike’s house (the house on the right from their vantage point) during both sets of bangs. These may have been the lights that she saw on which means they could have still been sleeping at that point and only woke up later in the sequence of events.
Immediately from there he started walking towards Oscar’s house.
He was able to identify the police buggy, as well as the car that pulled out of Dr. Stipp’s house, as he approached the home. He could still hear the crying coming from the house. Roux asks him if the crying was the same intensity as he heard before. He says this crying voice was a bit low.
The first person he saw was Johan Stander. Mike greeted him and asked “is Oscar ok?” Stander said to him that Oscar is ok but maybe you should check for yourself inside.
Why in the world would Stander send him in to look at that? That’s terrible, if true. He could have simply told Mike that Reeva had been shot. No need to send him in to go look.
Mike went to the door and what he saw, he says, is difficult to explain. He takes a pause and his voice seemed a bit broken for a moment. He goes on to say that he saw Oscar kneeling next to the lady. There was blood all over. Oscar was crying. There was one gentleman inside, Dr. Stipp. Oscar was pleading with him (Dr. Stipp) to help him. He could see that the situation was quite bad and he couldn’t walk any closer. He couldn’t take watching was he was seeing. It was very difficult.
He was still there when the paramedics arrived. They got out with their stretcher. They were struggling to open the other side of the front door. He helped them open that door so they could get in. The stretcher was only in there for about 3 minutes before it was taken out. At that moment, he knew that she was dead. After that, he stayed for about 5-10 minutes and then went back to his house as there was nothing he could do.
Roux asks him what type of blinds he has in his bedroom. He says they are wooden blinds that close horizontally. The light from outside and from inside is not visible through them other than just some streaks of light coming from underneath the slats. He said they close their blinds when they sleep.
At around 10am on February 14, he was approached as he was driving out of his garage by a police officer. The police officer did not properly introduce himself and basically said something to the effect of “hey brother, what happened here?” Mike was not very pleased with the manner in which he talked to him so he told the officer that if he wanted to talk to him, he would need to make a proper appointment to come and see him.
The following day, February 15, there were cars parked outside of Oscar’s house and they sent two female police officers to go speak with Mike again. He also said to them, you see me driving out of my house and you want me to drop everything to talk to you? He didn’t think that was appropriate so he told them the same, make an appointment with me and we can sit down and talk.
A few more days passed and Capt Van Aardt stopped by his house. Mike says that he introduced himself properly and had a business card with him. He felt more comfortable now giving a statement as he felt Van Aardt was more credible. They made an appointment and Van Aardt returned the following week at that time and Mike gave him a statement.
Roux asks if his wife gave a statement as well. He says yes. Roux wants to know where he was when she gave her statement. Mike doesn’t answer that question directly, instead he says that when he gave his statement, she was busy cooking. He was sitting in the dining area speaking with Van Aardt.
So Roux asks again, where were you when she gave her statement? Mike says that after he finished, Van Aardt asked to take a statement from his wife. Mike said no, he would be the only one giving a statement. He didn’t want his wife involved, as a protective measure toward her and his family. Van Aardt explained to him how it works, and assured him that their statements are safe. Mike then allowed his wife to give the statement. He sat with her while she was giving it because he said Van Aardt allowed him to do that.
Mike’s wife told Van Aardt that she heard “help, help, help” that night, however Mike never heard that. He also discussed this with the Defense during their consultation, telling them that he never heard that. Only his wife did.
Roux rests and Nel is up.
Nel mentions that when he consulted with Mike prior to trial, Mike indicated to him that he had followed the whole trial since the start. Nel asks Mike to tell the court what they discussed when they were in consultation. Mike says that Nel asked him if there was anything that he has picked up during trial that he would like to add to his statement. Mike’s response was that he said everything he knows in his statement.
His wife was not present during consultation; Nel spoke with each of them separately.
Mike also says that he told Nel he was surprised to hear about what the further away ear witnesses heard that night, but theorizes that perhaps he was still sleeping at that time and that’s why he didn’t hear the whole incident.
Nel asks, “you never heard any shots?” Mike says no. Nel asks him if he heard any sounds that would be similar to a cricket bat breaking down a door. Mike says he did not hear any bangs like that, nor did his wife.
Nel asks Mike if he ever heard anyone scream. Mike says he only heard a man crying very loudly. He agrees with Nel, that in consultation when they talked there was no mention of screaming.
Nel asks Mike if his wife ever left the room that night. He says no, she did not.
Nel then asks where the faint lights were on in the house that he mentioned earlier. At the time of the incident, they had a young baby at home. If all the lights were off in their bedroom, it would be pitch dark. So at night they leave some lights on in the passage to the dressing room to provide light for them in their bedroom. They also leave a light on leading to their son’s room, and a light on over the stairs. On the ground floor, there is typically a light illuminated as well.
Nel asks him if he ever entered his daughter’s room that night. He said no. He just tested the door knob to make sure it was still locked and listened to hear if she was still sleeping, which she was.
Nel asks him if he associated the crying that he heard with one of his neighbors. Mike says he couldn’t relate it with anyone but does agree that he told the security guard that it could be one of his neighbors; the sound was not far from his house.
Nel says, you know from following the case that the Stipps gave evidence of a woman screaming. He wants to know if Mike heard a woman screaming. He says, no, he did not. Nel also points out the testimony of Burger stating that she heard blood-curdling screams from a woman that night. He asks Mike if he heard that. He says, no, he did not. And Nel points out that Burger heard 4 gunshots at 3:17am. Did he hear that? Mike says it’s quite interesting to hear what others heard, but he did not hear any of those things. He only heard the crying.
Nel points out that Oscar testified that he screamed “like he never had before.” He wants to know if Mike heard that. He says no, as he said, he only heard the loud crying.
Nel asks Mike if he spoke to Oscar that night. He says no. And Nel wants to know if they have spoken since. Mike says no, they have not.
Nel asks Mike if he discussed the incident with Mr. Stander outside that night. Mike says no. The only exchange he had with Stander that night was when he first arrived and asked if Oscar was ok.
Nel asks Mike if he discussed any of this with the security people and Mike says, not at all.
Then finally, Nel asks Mike if he discussed this incident with anybody at the scene that night. Mike says no, he has only spoken with police about the incident.
Next, Nel wants to know if Mike saw any lights on in Oscar’s house that night before he went out of his house. Mike says it wouldn’t have been possible to see in his house at that time. He only looked outside, he didn’t specifically look towards Oscar’s bathroom windows so he didn’t take note of what lights were on.
Nel wraps up by establishing with Mike that he is aware that the Defense asserts that hitting a door with a cricket bat can sound like a gunshot. Nel wants to know if he heard anything like that. Mike says he did not hear any bangs at all that night.
Nel rests. Roux reexamines.
Roux asks Mike why he described the cries as “very loud” and not just as crying. Mike doesn’t know quite how to describe it; just that it was so loud that he believed the man’s life was in danger. He also says it was a “pitched” voice, it was very loud.
Roux then asks if at the same time, a woman was screaming very loudly, would he have heard it. Mike says yes, he would have heard it, but he didn’t.
Roux has no further questions. Mike is excused.
The next witness is Mike’s wife, Eonite Nhlegenthwa. She uses an interpreter for her testimony. She lives in the same home as Mike next to Oscar. She describes herself as a house wife. She does know Oscar, but only as a neighbor. They greet each other when they pass by. They do not socialize together. She had never met Reeva.
On Feb 13, 2013, she was home. She went to bed between 10-11pm. She was awakened in the early morning hours by a bang sound. It was a very loud sound. Roux asks if she knows where it came from. She says she wasn’t sure. She woke her husband up and asked him if he heard the noise.
Her husband got up and left the bedroom to check where the noise came from. He then came back in to the bedroom and she was sitting on the bed. While her husband was looking around the house, she heard somebody yelling “help, help, help.” Roux asks if it was a man or woman’s voice. It was a little difficult to understand the interpreter but I believe she said that it seemed like a “male person’s” voice. After that she heard the crying. She said it sounded like the person needed urgent help. It was very loud. Roux asks if she could hear what the person was saying then. She says no. The person would cry, stop for a while, and then cry again.
Her husband then called security. She didn’t follow the whole conversation that he was having on the phone, because she was very frightened at this stage. Her husband then peered out the window. He told her that a security patrol car was parked in the house across the field (the Stipp’s house.)
He then described to her how the two vehicles left the Stipp’s house and went in different directions. When the cars then passed their house, he went to go see where they went. He came back in to the bedroom and informed her that the car was parked at Oscar’s and he was going out to see what was happening. She did not leave the house at any time.
When he got home, he told her that somebody had passed away at Oscar’s house but he didn’t know what transpired.
Roux rests and Nel is up.
Nel asks her if the “bangshot” woke her up. She answers yes. After that, she woke her husband up. They only had a very short conversation. She heard the “help, help, help” when he was outside of the room investigating the noise. She was afraid of the noise that she heard. Nel establishes with her that she is very awake at this stage and listening to what is going on. And she heard a man crying. But she never heard any other bang sounds.
Nel says, if you look at Dr. Stipp’s evidence of the “help, help, help” that was yelled, you must have heard the last bang of the banging sounds that he heard (which was right around 3:15am+). Mrs. Nhlegenthwa agrees with this.
Nel rests and Roux has no further questions. Mrs. Nhlegenthwa is excused.
The next witness up is Rica Motshuane. She lives at #285 Bushwillow Crescent in Silverwoods Estates. She lives on the right side of Oscar, if you are looking directly at his home. Her husband is Kenneth. She met Oscar once in 2008, when they moved in. Oscar went to their house to welcome them but they weren’t home. So they went to his house the next day to say hello. He invited them in for coffee but they did not have time. This was the only time she had met him. She works for the Dept of Labor.
On Feb 13, 2013, she was home with her husband. They went to bed around 10pm. In the early hours of February 14, she heard a man crying. It was a cry of pain. She woke her husband up and asked him if he heard it. He said yes but he thought he was dreaming. She said to him, no it’s real and the person is panicked. She said to her husband that maybe one of the security guards has been shot. She also heard dogs barking.
Roux asks her if the crying was soft, loud, high or low. She says it was very loud and very close. She even thought it could be inside the house. She said the crying was continuous. They were in a sitting position in their bed. They didn’t switch on the lights. They were kind of frozen in panic. Shortly after, she heard a car passing by and it stopped.
She points out that their bedroom faces the front of their house, which is the opposite side from Oscar’s house. So looking at this picture, their bedroom faces the #285 number on the map.
So she went to a window on the other side of her house, the side that faces Oscar’s house, and she could see a mini Cooper in the road in front of Oscar’s driveway. (This would have been Carice’s car.) They got back in to bed and wondered what had happened. She then heard another car passing by and stop. She again got out of bed, looked through that same window and saw the security car. She told her husband that she was going to call security to see what happened. She called them but they didn’t answer. After a while, her husband called. They told her husband that they are taking care of the situation.
They went back to bed again but had difficulty sleeping so they just laid in bed and talked about what may be going on.
Roux wants to know how long the time frame was in between the loud crying and the mini cooper pulling up. She thinks maybe 5 minutes, but not more than 10 minutes.
She was approached by Hilton Botha to give a statement. They made an appointment and she did give a statement.
Roux asks at the time you heard the crying, was there anybody else crying or screaming? She says no, she only heard a man crying. Roux asks her if a female had been screaming at the same time, would she have heard it. She believes she would have.
Roux has no further questions. Nel is up.
Nel asks, if you had heard a lady scream, you would have put that in your statement, correct? And she says yes. But she only heard a man crying at about 3:20am that morning according to her statement. She estimated the time because she didn’t look at her clock and didn’t know the exact time.
Nel asks her if she followed the matter in the media. She says yes, she has watched it on TV but she did ask Capt Van Aardt first via SMS message. She was informed that the State would not be calling her so she was free to watch the trial.
Nel asks her, you are aware of the issues that have come up regarding the gunshots, etc. She says she is aware. But she did not hear gunshots that night.
Nel concludes by establishing that when she got up and looked out the window after the crying, the mini cooper was parked in the street. This means that the Standers were already there, and she only heard the tail end of the event where Oscar was crying.
Nel rests and Roux has no further reexamination. Mrs. Motshuane is excused.
The only thing these three witnesses did today, in my opinion, is solidify that they only heard the end of the incident (after the gunshots) and they were able to identify Oscar as a male voice crying. This does not help him at all. It only reinforces the State’s case.
Roux has no further witnesses available for today, and tomorrow is a public holiday, so they will resume on Thursday.