Oscar Trial – Day 4, March 6 JOHNSON, Dr STIPP

Charl Johnson is back on the stand today for more cross-examination from Roux.
Once again, Roux is trying to get Mr. Johnson to say that he and his wife collaborated on their testimony. He explained how he gave his statement to police, which was separate from his wife, and what he is testifying to today is what he originally stated to police. The notes that they were looking for yesterday have been found. Roux wants to review them. He goes through several lines to try to point out where Johnson is now embellishing his testimony. Roux actually goes so far as to say he has “designed” his testimony for court. Mr. Johnson points out to the judge that he has absolutely no reason or incentive to design his answers for the court.

Two important points that Mr. Johnson gets in to testimony today is that he is a gun owner, so he is very familiar with the sound of gunfire. He holds steadfast to the fact that what he heard that night around 3:17am was gunfire. Second, he also testified that he heard female screams and male screams occurring at the same time. This contradicts Roux’s argument that Oscar was screaming so loud that he sounded like a woman. No way for Oscar to make his voice sound like two different people. Roux wants to eat Mr. Johnson alive, and has tried to for two days now, but Mr. Johnson was solid. Mr. Johnson is excused.

Next witness up is Dr. Johan Stipp. He is one of Oscar’s neighbors in Silverwood Estates, but does not personally know Oscar. His house is located at the back of Oscar’s about 72 meters away. Dr. Stipp’s bedroom directly overlooks Oscar’s bathroom windows.

See the image below to find the vantage point of Dr. Stipp. Oscar’s house is circled in red. The windows to the bathroom where the shooting occurred are on the back side of Oscar’s house on the left side. If you look directly across the field at the back of Oscar’s house, the house with the orange roof is Dr. Stipp’s. The window above the garage is their bedroom. That window is actually a door that opens to a small balcony. To the right of that around the corner is another larger bedroom balcony. Dr. Stipp looked from both balconies that night to see what was going on. The larger balcony has a slightly better view around the trees in Oscar’s backyard.

OP aerial view of home

aerial view of house2

Dr. Stipp was home on the night of February 13, 2013, along with his wife, three children and domestic servant. He went to bed around 10:30pm that night. Both bedroom balcony doors were open.

During the night he was awakened by 3 loud bangs. His wife asked him “what was that” and he replied “I think it was gunshots”. He got up out of bed and went out on to the balcony. He then heard screaming which sounded like a female. She screamed 3 or 4 times. He later states in his testimony that she sounded extremely fearful. All of this happened within a matter of short moments.

He noticed that the house directly to the right of Oscar’s had all of their lights on. And in Oscar’s house, the bathroom light was on. Dr. Stipp went back inside and called Silverwood security. There was no answer. So then he called 10111 (not sure what this is), got a fast ringing. While he was trying to figure out who to call next, he heard another 3 loud bangs. He thought that these also sounded like gunshots. He told his wife to get away from the window, fearing for her safety. He eventually got through to the security. He reported what he heard and they said they would send someone. He was pacing around his room at this time. He went back out on to the balcony again. He then heard a man shouting “help” three times. He went back inside again.

Security arrived a few minutes later at the Stipp house in a vehicle. Dr. Stipp spoke to them from his balcony. He told them what he heard and where it was coming from and they left to go investigate. Dr. Stipp watched them as they drove off. He looked back over at Oscar’s bathroom window and could see somebody inside moving from the right to the left. He discussed with his wife if he should go over there to see if they need help. He first drove down to security to make sure it was safe to go there and they said yes, they have already sent somebody there.

Dr. Stipp drove to Oscar’s house, he parked, and there was a man (Mr. Stander) speaking on a cell phone leaning against a white car in the parking lot. That man motioned him toward the front door. There was a lady standing in the doorway (Stander’s daughter). He stated to her that he was a doctor, can he be of assistance, she said yes and walked him inside.

At the bottom of the stairs Reeva was lying on her back on the floor.

OP stairs

As he bent down, he noticed there was a man to her left kneeling next to her. He had his left hand on her right groin and his right hand second and third fingers in her mouth. Oscar said “I shot her. I thought she was a burglar and I shot her.” Dr. Stipp tried to assist her. He checked for pulses and could not find any. She had no breathing movements. She also was clenching down on Oscar’s fingers as he was trying to open her airway. He tried to do a jaw lift maneuver which was very difficult due to the clenching. He opened her right eyelid. Her pupil was fixed dilated and the cornea was milky. It was obvious that she was mortally wounded. He also noted that she had a wound in her right thigh and a wound in her right upper arm. On the right area of her skull was hair, blood and brain tissue. It was a very severe, fatal injury.

Oscar sobbed loudly during this testimony and had his head hanging low.

OP trial day 4

Oscar was crying all the while Dr. Stipp was there that night. He was praying to God “please let her live, I will dedicate my life and her life to God if you will just let her live.” Dr. Stipp went outside and asked Mr. Stander if the ambulance was on their way. He said no, he hadn’t called them yet so Dr. Stipp called the hospital emergency department and asked them to send an ambulance. They told him he had to call an emergency number, not them directly, so Mr. Stander called an emergency number. Dr. Stipp spoke to the dispatcher, explained the injuries, and they proceeded to send out an ambulance.

At one time when Dr. Stipp was outside talking to Mr. Stander, Oscar went back upstairs. Dr. Stipp asked Mr. Stander where the gun was located because he was afraid that Oscar was going upstairs to kill himself. Mr. Stander said he didn’t know where the gun was. Oscar came back a few minutes later. Mr. Stander’s wife arrived at some point. They were all outside talking and Mrs. Stander made a comment that she hoped this didn’t get out to the papers. The ambulance arrived a short while after. Dr. Stipp told Mr. Stander that he was no longer of use so he would go back home and they exchanged phone numbers. Dr. Stipp got in his car and drove back home. He told his wife what had happened. They tried to get a little rest after that but at 4:17am the phone rang and it was Mr. Stander notifying him that Oscar’s lawyer may be calling him shortly to discuss the incident. He never received any calls after that.

The next morning Dr. Stipp went to work. His wife called him around 9am and she told him that the woman who was killed the night prior was Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend and you were in Oscar’s house. Dr. Stipp knew that Oscar lived in the neighborhood but he did not know that was Oscar the previous night. He was surprised to hear this news. Nobody ever contacted Dr. Stipp that day to question him which he thought was unusual. The next day, he went down to the security gate and asked the estate manager for a phone number for a police officer so he could give a statement about what he witnessed. The officer that he called met him at the hospital where he works and took his statement on February 15. A few months later, he made another statement to detective Van Aardt.

Dr. Stipp also testified about his experience with guns. He has prior army experience and was trained on an assault rifle and a 9mm pistol. So he is familiar with gunfire noises.

Going back to the screams, when he heard the woman initially screaming he believed he could also hear a man’s voice at the same time that sounded lower. He believes he heard two different voices at the same time. This is similar to what Mrs. Burger and Mr. Johnson said. Voices were intermingled.

Dr. Stipp is asked if he saw the police at Oscar’s house after the incident and he says no, they didn’t arrive until after he had left to go back home. I believe this is important because there was a fair amount of time from when the shooting occurred to when police arrived that the scene was not secure.

Dr. Stipp states that he also heard the yelling noises at Oscar’s house on February 21, 2014, which were the screaming tests that were being conducted by the defense prior to trial. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he could hear the yelling.

Roux cross-examines. This is an important point for the defense. He is pointing out to Dr. Stipp that the second set of bangs that he heard that night coincide with the bangs that Mrs. Burger and Mr. Johnson heard at 3:17am that night. We know that there were only 4 gunshots that went off that night. We also know that at some time after the gunshots, Oscar broke a panel out of the door with a cricket bat. The defense’s position is that the shots came first, the female screaming that came next was actually Oscar crying out in grief, and the second banging noises heard (the ones at 3:17am) were the cricket bat. But Dr. Stipp feels very certain that the second round of bangs that he heard were shots. The bangs were close in succession and it’s more likely that a gun would create that noise so quickly, not a hand-wielded bat (paraphrasing).

So it begs the question, what was the first set of bangs that Dr. Stipp heard that woke he and his wife? My own theorizing here, but we know there was a cricket bat involved somehow in this event. Oscar states it was only used to break open the door. Maybe it was used in an earlier argument? Maybe he banged on the door or something else while they were fighting, Reeva runs to the toilet room and locks herself in out of fear. Oscar runs to get the gun, all the while the neighbors hear her screaming in terror, and then Oscar shoots her through the door. Just my own theory of what could have happened that fits what everybody heard. It makes sense to me that the Stipps could have heard additional banging because they were closer than the other witnesses. Burger and Johnson very likely only heard gunshots because of their distance. It makes no logical sense that they would hear wood banging on wood, but not gunshots.

Back to the cross-examination, Roux is trying to suggest to Dr. Stipp that there was a decent period of time between when he heard the first bangs and he got out of bed to go to balcony, made a call to security, and then heard the second set of bangs. Roux needs all of this to happen in approximately 2 or 2 and a half minutes to fit Oscar’s timeline. Dr. Stipp is explaining to Roux that all of this happened very rapidly. There were no long delays or lengthy conversations in between, it all happened very quickly.

Roux is now going back to Dr. Stipp’s original statement to police on February 15, and his testimony today, somewhat accusing him of not being entirely clear about what he witnessed. He has done this with every single witness… accusing some of flat out lying, accusing some of being confused, accusing them of changing statements, etc. Basically he has told almost every witness that what they heard was incorrect. I can’t fault him too much on that because if the Judge gives full weight to these witnesses, Oscar will be crushed.

It’s fascinating to me to see how different this South African court is from an American court. The lawyers seem to be able to make broad sweeping accusations at witnesses and it’s allowed. This would not happen in American courts. They would be admonished by the Judge. You certainly can question a witness’s credibility, and you should, but you can’t badger them. You can’t repeatedly tell them that they are mistaken about what they witnessed. That’s not up for a lawyer to decide, it’s up to the Judge (or a jury in the US) to decide. The other thing that is interesting is that the lawyers are able to make statements within their questioning, which is odd. Opening and closing statements are typically where you hear the lawyers give their theories. These lawyers seem to be able to interject their own theories and beliefs in to their questions and almost state them as fact. It’s very different here.

So going back to Roux’s timeline, if the first set of bangs were gunshots which the defense says they were, there could not have possibly been a female screaming afterwards because of the fatal nature of the head wound. There would be no way to account for the screams that Dr. Stipp heard in between bangs. That means either two things: the first set of bangs that were heard were not gunshots and were something else, or, they were gunshots and the screams that were heard were indeed Oscar’s screams that sounded like a woman (heard by 4, maybe more, witnesses). When this dilemma is put to Dr. Stipp, he replies that perhaps the cricket bat banging happened first and the gunshots last. Roux explains that this is not possible because the cricket bat broke out the panel in the door but there were gunshot holes in that panel, so the shots must have come first. We have not seen the ballistic reports or the reports on the door yet in the trial, but Roux also adds that there were splinters from the door lodged in the deceased.

Roux goes back to his argument that the only possible scenario is that the female screams heard were actually Oscar. He has sound experts who tested his voice and will come to court to demonstrate to everybody how he sounds like a woman. That should be interesting! Dr. Stipp yet again points out that he heard two different sets of voices intermingled. And poses back to Roux “am I to believe that he was screaming in two voices or two tones”? Roux’s only defense back is that the doctor is mistaken about what he heard that night.

OP Gerrie Nel 2

Finally… Nel objects to the Judge that Roux is stating theories as fact. They argue a bit about which set of noises actually killed Reeva, and Nel wants to clarify to the court that the state’s position is the shots heard at approximately 3:17am are the shots that killed Reeva and there would be no screaming after. The defense’s position is that the first set of bangs heard prior to 3:17am are the ones that killed Reeva, therefore the screaming after could not have been Reeva but only Oscar. That in a nutshell is the difference in cases. That is why these ear witnesses are so crucial. And needless to say, ballistics will be crucial too. Seems like they need to figure out what it was that Dr. Stipp heard banging prior to 3:17am.

Cross-examination continued and Roux wants to know again Oscar’s emotional state when the doctor first saw him that night. Dr. Stipp states he seemed very sincere, he was crying with tears on his face. Praying to God that she would live. He wanted Dr. Stipp to help her and he appeared to be actively trying to assist her.

They look again at the exterior pictures of Oscar’s bathroom windows. Roux points out that the glass on the window is frosted and the view is slightly obscured by a tree. Dr. Stipp points out that he was on the large balcony looking at the house and that view is better than the small balcony. He did see a person’s silhouette moving from right to left in that window. This is important because it will come up at some point in the trial whether or not Oscar was wearing his prosthetics at the time of the shooting. If the neighbor can see somebody moving in that window, you have to wonder how tall that person was. They will no doubt be looking at measurements at some point. But it sounds like Dr. Stipp saw this figure after security arrived (so after all the commotion) and Oscar did state in his affidavit that he put his legs on after the shooting, so it might not be such a revelation after all. We’ll have to wait and see.

Here is an inside view of the large bathroom window

OP bathroom

Here is an inside view of the toilet room. This is one of the photos that was leaked to the public back in 2013.

OP toilet room and door graphic

And this is another view of the layout of the bathroom. The windows would have been to the left of Oscar as he is shooting in to the bathroom door.

A plan of Oscar Pistorius's house. Graphic: Paddy Allen, Finbarr Sheehy, Paul Scruton, David Smith

The other very important point that came up was that the bathroom light was on DURING the screaming. Dr. Stipp saw the bathroom light on, but didn’t notice the toilet room light on. If Reeva was simply in the toilet with the door shut and locked, doing her toilet business, why wouldn’t she have the light on? I would imagine that small, closed space would be very dark at night. Now, the toilet window is much smaller than the other bathroom windows so it’s possible that the light doesn’t shine through as brightly. Perhaps it was on and Dr. Stipp just didn’t notice. I don’t know. But it would be odd if we find out that the toilet room light was off when the police arrived. Why would she be in that small enclosed space with the door locked and no light on? Was she hiding?

Another thing that’s food for thought… Dr. Stipp heard the female screams and heard the 3:17am shots while the light was on. If these were supposed intruders in Oscar’s home, why would they have turned the bathroom light on? Doesn’t seem likely that intruders would do that. And Oscar specifically stated in his affidavit that he was too afraid to turn the light on at this point.

Another revelation that Dr. Stipp pointed out in court was that the initial screams (the intermingled ones) that he heard from his balcony while the bathroom light was on was close by meaning that it was likely coming from the bathroom. The subsequent male scream heard later of “help, help, help” sounded much further away and off to the left. (that would probably be Oscar’s bedroom balcony.) A clear differentiation in voices and locations.

They adjourn for the day.

Oscar Trial – Day 3, March 5 JOHNSON, LERENA, LOUPIS

OP day 3 pic

Mr. Charl Johnson is back on the stand for cross-examination with Barry Roux. Roux is repeatedly insinuating that the couple is comparing notes and sharing evidence. He points out different circumstances where they used the same words to describe the events of that night. For instance, when they describe the intensity of the fear they heard in the woman’s screams as well as how they describe the pause after the first gunshot, they spoke very similarly about those details. They did not mention these details in their original written statements but are now testifying to them on the stand in similar ways. Mr. Johnson denies that they are comparing testimonies and explains that two people who were right next to each other sharing the experience on that night could very easily describe it the same way.

Their accounts are more detailed now because they have since made detailed notes about that night, on the advice of their advocate. Mr. Johnson states that he and his wife did not make notes together, that he keeps his own notes on his personal laptop. Last night before trial he turned those notes in to a PDF and transferred them to his iPad which is currently located in the witness room. Roux asks him why he kept notes and he states that their advocate said to them a while back that it may be some time before the case goes to trial and it’s important to keep notes in as much detail as possible so they would remember come time for trial.

Roux also wanted to know why Mr. Johnson did not testify immediately after his wife yesterday; why did Mrs. van der Merwe testify in between them. He seemed to be implying that in the time that Mrs. van der Merwe was on the stand, the two of them were in the witness room discussing their statements. Mr. Johnson explains that Mrs. van der Merwe was extremely nervous about giving testimony (which was indeed witnessed when she got on the stand yesterday) and she asked Mr. Nel if she could just testify and get it over with. She wanted to be done with her testimony yesterday and just go home. So he let her testify in front of Mr. Johnson. So Mr. Johnson and his wife were in the witness room together in between testimonies. Roux pushes very hard back at Mr. Johnson basically telling him that he is lying to the court and the judge admonishes Roux for going too far with the witness.

OP day 3 pic 3

Roux then asks Mr. Johnson if he was the one who woke his wife that night by jumping out of bed and he says yes. This is in contradiction to her testimony. She stated that the screams woke her up. Mr. Johnson believed it was him jumping out of bed that woke her up. So there are some inconsistencies there. I’m not sure how important they are but Roux wants to make them important. Understandably, he seems very hell bent on ruining the credibility of these two witnesses who are vital to the timeline of events.

He also questions Mr. Johnson’s credibility on the number of shots he heard. Mr. Johnson’s statement said 5 to 6 shots and Mr. Johnson agrees that is what he thought at the time. Roux believes he should have been more accurate since he was out on the balcony at the time he heard the shots.

Now this was a very important piece of testimony that took place today and has several questions swimming in my head. Many look at this point as a win for the defense. I’m not sure yet, I think it needs a lot more dissection. Mr. Johnson states to the court that their call to security was at 3:16am. That call lasted 58 seconds. After the call terminated it would have been 3:17am. He put down the phone and immediately went back to the balcony where he heard the heightened screams and gunshots that followed. Since this portion of the event happened very rapidly, we can probably estimate that the shots may have occurred sometime around 3:17:30am roughly.

Roux presents Mr. Johnson with the fact that Oscar phoned the estate security (Stander) at 3:19:50am (I may be off by a few seconds here). He believes that the timing of this phone call surely indicates that Mr. Johnson heard the cricket bat hitting the door and not the gunshots based on the fact that according to Oscar’s initial bail statement, he called Stander AFTER bashing in the door and pulling Reeva out. That would explain why Burger & Johnson heard silence afterwards. This would be the time that he is pulling Reeva out of the bathroom and getting the phone to call Stander. But Mr. Johnson again states he is positive that what he heard were gunshots.

So let’s look back at Oscar’s statement of what occurred after the shots. Something is off here for me. If Johnson and Burger did in fact hear gunshots at that exact moment (which they have a security phone record to back up the timeline and seem to be credible witnesses) then Oscar had approximately two minutes, maybe less, to do a number of things before calling Stander. There are two possible scenarios. Either Burger and Johnson are wrong about the gunshots or Oscar is not being truthful about how the events unfolded that night. This is what Oscar states had occurred after the gunshots and prior to calling Stander (remember he has about 2 minutes to do all this):

• He yelled to Reeva to call the police but she was not responding so he ran to the bedroom (still on stumps) and realized Reeva was not in bed. (NOTE: it’s supposedly pitch black in the bedroom. He needs to find his way to the bed and check if she is in it because according to his story he previously couldn’t see anything in that bedroom.)

• All of a sudden he realizes that maybe it was her in the bathroom.

• He returns to the bathroom, tries to open the toilet door but it’s locked (he is still on stumps).

• He went back to the bedroom (still on stumps), opened the balcony door (which means he’d also have to open the blinds and curtains first since he previously stated he closed them), exited on to the balcony, and then yelled for help.

• When he comes back inside, he puts on his prosthetic legs.

• He ran back to the bathroom tried to kick the door open which didn’t work.

• He ran back to the bedroom again to grab his cricket bat.

• Then he ran back to the bathroom and bashed part of the toilet door in.

• He then found the bathroom key on the toilet floor, unlocked the door and pulled Reeva through it out in to the bathroom.


Here is the bedroom/bathroom layout again:

A plan of Oscar Pistorius's house. Graphic: Paddy Allen, Finbarr Sheehy, Paul Scruton, David Smith

The screams that Burger and Johnson heard were fairly consistent in the few minutes that they heard them prior to the gunshots. They occurred immediately before the gunshots and throughout the gunshots. If Roux wants us to believe that it was the cricket bat that they heard, that would mean that Oscar was screaming so loudly that he sounded like a girl all the way up until he finished bashing the bathroom door in with the cricket bat. In Oscar’s statement above, he mentioned yelling to Reeva right after the gunshots and yelling on the balcony. That is all. He was running back and forth between rooms supposedly trying to figure out who was in the toilet and trying to get her out once he knew it was Reeva. The reported screaming still doesn’t match up with what Roux is suggesting.

Then continuing on with Oscar’s original bail statement, he then went downstairs and unlocked the front door, ran back upstairs to get Reeva and while he was carrying her back down the stairs, Stander and a doctor from the neighborhood arrived. How could they have arrived so quickly? With his legs now on, I would imagine that 2 trips up and down the stairs would not have taken him that long. How far away was Stander from Oscar’s home when he called him? It is possible that he was very close by. I’m just thinking out loud.

I am anxious to hear Stander testify so we can tighten up this timeline of events.

In conclusion for Mr. Johnson, Roux would like to see Johnson’s notes from his iPad so they adjourn briefly to obtain them. When they come back from break we find out that they are having a problem locating them but Nel tells the court that they will get them and make sure the defense has a copy. Johnson is excused for the time being. I’m guessing we’ll see him again tomorrow.

Next witness up is Kevin Lerena. He will be testifying in regards to count # 2, which is one of the additional gun-related charges in this case that is not directly related to the killing of Reeva. Mr. Lerena is a professional boxer. He met Oscar through his sponsor, the Daytona Group. Oscar and he proceeded to spend some time together. Oscar was helping Kevin to get in shape for an upcoming fight.

On January 11, 2013, Mr. Lerena was out to dinner with Oscar and two other gentlemen, Darren Fresco and Martin Rooney. They were at Tasha’s Restaurant in Johannesburg. They just had some soft drinks, no alcohol was served, and Mr. Lerena had ordered a pasta dinner for himself. All of a sudden there was a gun being passed underneath their table. It was passed from Mr. Fresco over to Oscar. Mr. Fresco then said “I’m one up” (meaning there was one bullet in the chamber.) Then the gun went off. There was complete silence in the restaurant. Mr. Lerena noticed a hole in the ground right next to his foot. He also noticed some gray stuff on his toes, and there was blood on his toe as well. But he was not shot and suspects that the blood and dust was probably from debris hitting him.

Oscar very quickly apologized to everyone and asked if everyone was ok several times. He said he didn’t know how the gun went off. Before anyone came to the table, Oscar asked Mr. Fresco to please just take the rap for him (paraphrasing). He did not want to deal with any media attention about this. The restaurant owner came over and Mr. Fresco took the blame. Mr. Lerena was in shock so he doesn’t remember exactly what Mr. Fresco said to the owner. They paid their bill and they left, and they never spoke about it again.

On February 16, 2013, two days after the shooting of Reeva and also after Mr. Lerena’s boxing match, he woke up to 100 messages on his phone. People from all over the world wanted to interview him about an incident the month prior where Oscar shot him in the leg. He came forth to the police and corrected the story, that he was not shot in the leg and explained the incident further. Nel has no further questions for him. It is Roux’s turn to cross-examine but he is not ready for this witness. Apparently they did not know that the witness would be taking the stand today. Roux asks for extra time over lunch to prepare and the Judge obliges.

After lunch, Roux suggests to Mr. Lerena that the restaurant was very loud that day and Mr. Lerena agrees that it was. So loud that it’s possible that Oscar did not hear Mr. Fresco tell him that he was “one up”. Mr. Lerena responds that he cannot confirm what Oscar did or did not hear, he would have to ask him directly. Roux wants to confirm though that Oscar was very surprised by the shot, and Mr. Lerena agrees that yes he was very surprised by the gun going off and was very apologetic to everybody about it.

Roux goes on to explain that Oscar wanted to see the gun because he was interested in buying a similar one for himself. He did not know that the gun was loaded and was angry with Mr. Fresco for giving him a loaded gun. He supposedly said “what if somebody got hurt”. Mr. Lerena cannot confirm that conversation, he did not hear that. Roux also states that it was Mr. Fresco who actually suggested to Oscar that he should take the blame for him after Oscar uttered something to the effect of “what will happen if this gets out”. So Roux is proposing that Mr. Fresco suggested he take the blame, and not that Oscar asked him to. Mr. Lerena cannot confirm this conversation between the two. He did not hear the specifics of their exchange. He did hear Mr. Fresco take the blame and heard him say something about the gun accidently getting hooked on his pants or something like that to the restaurant owner. Mr. Lerena is then excused.

Next witness is Jason Loupis. He is the owner of Tasha’s Restaurant. He confirmed that the four gentlemen were in his restaurant on January 11, 2013. He has met Oscar on a few previous occasions. That day in their restaurant it was a very busy day around lunch time. They were full so there would have been about 220 people in the restaurant at the time. He heard a loud bang. Thought it could have been a gun but was hoping it was something else, maybe a balloon popping. He went inside to investigate toward the direction of the noise. He asked the guys at the table what happened. Mr. Fresco said “Sorry Jason, my gun fell out of my track suit pants.” He asked them if they were being serious because this is not a joke. He was concerned that somebody could have gotten hurt. He walked around to make sure everybody was ok and it looked like everybody was. The restaurant had gone quiet so he wanted to put everybody back at ease. He went outside and told his wife what happened and she went in to speak to them at the table. Shortly after they paid their bill and apologized and left.

Roux cross-examines. When the gentlemen were leaving, they all apologized and Oscar paid the bill. Roux states that Oscar said to Mr. Loupis that he would pay for the damage and Mr. Loupis said don’t worry about it. Mr. Loupis does not recall this exchange. He is then excused.

Next witness is Maria Loupis. She is the wife of Jason Loupis and also an owner of Tasha’s Restaurant. On January 11, 2013, she was at the outside seating area of the restaurant when her husband came outside and told her that a gun had gone off. She asked him if anybody had spoken to them and he said yes. She then went inside along with a friend to speak to them as well. Of the group, she knew Darren Fresco, Kevin Lerena and Oscar. She asked them what happened. Mr. Fresco spoke with her and told her that the gun had accidentally fallen out of his pants and went off. She proceeded to ask him what is the first rule of owning a gun, shouldn’t it be safety first. She then she hit him over the head. Oscar did not speak or give any explanation, only Mr. Fresco spoke.

Roux then cross-examines. Mrs. Loupis only saw Oscar pay for the bill, she did not hear him apologize or offer to pay for the damage. She did hear the loud sound from the gun when it went off but also stated that at the time she didn’t know it was a gun that she heard. She also states that there was a child sitting in a chair right next to the booth where the gun went off.

No further questions, she is excused and they adjourn for the day.


Michelle Burger is on the stand again today and Barry Roux has pretty much the same line of questioning. He is trying to make it seem like the witness made false assumptions about what she heard that night. He also challenged her on her ability to hear what she heard from so far away, with Reeva being in a closed bathroom. He challenged the prosecution to do a sound test to see if it’s possible to hear the screams that far away. Mrs. Burger points out that new homes have since been built in between them so sound would not carry the same. We have yet to see if the Prosecution has done any sound testing.

Another point of contention between them is that Mrs. Burger states that the last scream she heard from the woman was approximately 1 or maybe 2 seconds at the most after the last shot. She can’t say exactly when it was but it was immediately after the last shot and then faded off. Roux read a portion of the official statement detailing Reeva’s wounds and states that based on her head injury it would be impossible for her to have any cognitive function after the last gunshot therefore it would have been impossible for her to be screaming at that time. Roux and Nel exchange some words about the sequence of shots and when she was shot in the head, which will be argued at a later time in the trial.

Another interesting moment between Mrs. Burger and Roux was when Roux pushed her on why a male would be yelling for help while the woman was also yelling for help, and Mrs. Burger suggests that perhaps it was “mockery” on behalf of the man. She states that Roux will need to pose that question to Oscar, only he can answer that. It was a pretty bold come back and food for thought. Both Mrs. Burger and her husband Mr. Johnson, who testified later in the day, did state that the man’s shout was more subdued than the woman’s.

Mrs. Burger is again questioned about whether or not she knows what a cricket bat sounds like banging on a door. She says no but she is very sure that what she heard was gunshots. After Roux finishes with her, Gerrie Nel asks her how she would try to break down a door with a cricket bat. She says she would hit it then pull the bat backwards and swing at it again to hit, indicating that there would be some lag time in between hits. So then he asks her if in the time frame that she heard shots number 2 thru 4, does it seem feasible that the sound is comparable to somebody swinging a large bat back and forth and she answers no.

Nel concludes by asking her if she properly conveyed her emotions about how traumatic the screams were that night to the investigator when he took her statement and she breaks down in tears and said yes she did. She said her emotion was very raw. Roux asks her one last time if she saw her husband’s statement while she was speaking with detective Van Aardt and she says no. Michelle Burger is then excused.

The next witness up is Estelle van der Merwe. She lives in Silverwood Estates and is a neighbor of Oscar’s. She did not know him, nor had ever met him, but was aware that he lived in the house across the road. Her husband has spoken directly to Oscar in the past.

She is house # 180 at the bottom of the picture.

OP neighborhood

Also, here is an aerial photo of their home. Oscar’s house is circled in red. The van der Mewre home is the blue one across the street to the left (from this view.) The white balcony that is seen in the front of the house on the 2nd floor is their bedroom balcony.

van der mewre blue house across street

Mrs. van der Merwe, her husband and her child were home on the evening of February 13, 2013, and went to bed around 9pm. In the morning hours she was awakened around 1:56am by the loud voice of somebody who sounded like they were in a fight. It was a woman’s voice which lasted for about an hour. Mrs. van der Mewre was irritated by this and had to put a pillow over her head in the hopes of getting some sleep. At one point she did get up to see if she could see anything outside but did not, so she went back to bed.

Below are pictures of the view from their bedroom balcony. The first white home that can be seen on the left is the home of Mr. Nhlengethwa. Oscar’s house is just past that.

van der mewre bedroom balcony

van der mewre bedroom balcony2

Sometime around 3am, she heard 4 banging sounds. After these banging sounds there was total silence. She asked her husband what he thought the sounds were and he said gunshots. Her husband looked out the window but didn’t see anything so went back to bed. Shortly afterwards they heard a commotion so her husband called security. After that call, they heard somebody crying loudly. Mrs. van der Merwe thought it was the lady crying but her husband said it was Oscar crying. She later got up and saw several vehicles, including an ambulance, outside of Oscar’s house.

Her husband called security the next morning to find out what happened. They told him that Oscar had shot his friend.

Mrs. van der Merwe also heard loud shouting voices coming from Oscar’s house on February 21st of this year. She believed it to be the voices of two males.

Roux gets up to cross-examine. He explains to Mrs. van de Merwe that on February 21, 2014, they were conducting tests from Oscar’s house at 2-3am of both a man and a woman screaming to see who could hear it to prepare for trial. He only briefly covers this topic as I don’t think he expected her to testify that she heard those screams a few weeks ago, but she did. Roux tells her that Oscar’s bedroom is on the opposite side of the house that faces their balcony and there’s no way she could have properly heard what she thought she heard.

Of course, it’s possible that Oscar and Reeva could have been arguing in a different part of the house, not just in the bedroom.

He then questions her about the events of February 14, 2013. He asks her what the time frame was between when she last heard the female’s voice and when she heard the 4 shots. She states she can’t remember. She stated that the voice was not consistently shouting/speaking loudly for an entire hour, it was intermittent. She also could not make out what the woman was saying or in which language she was speaking. But she does reiterate that the voice sounded angry.

Roux puts to her that she cannot say that she heard the female’s voice shortly before the shots and she agrees.

It’s possible that the argument has now moved to the bedroom/bathroom area which is on the other side of the house. That may be why she is only hearing the arguing intermittently, because they are moving inside. We know that Reeva was shot in the bathroom so it’s possible that Mrs. van der Merwe may not have heard the final screams before the shots like Burger and Johnson did. Burger and Johnson’s bedroom faced Oscar’s bathroom area whereas the van der Mewre’s bedroom faces the front of his house.

Roux also asks her if after the gunshots she said anything to her husband about the earlier voice that she thought was in an argument. She says that she did not. Roux asks her why and she says because she wasn’t sure where the voice was coming from so she didn’t say anything.

She did not go to check on her son nor did she go outside afterwards to check out what happened. The incident that night frightened her and she didn’t know what to do so they just stayed in the bedroom. She says she was paralyzed with fear.

Nel does a brief reexamination and asks her how she can tell the difference between a man and woman’s voice. She states that a woman’s voice is higher pitched and a man’s voice has more bass.

Nel also asks her at what point did she finally tell her husband about the angry female voice that she heard before the shots. Mrs. van der Mewre states that after she heard that Oscar shot his girlfriend, she told her husband what she heard that night.

Mrs. van der Merwe concludes by saying prior to that night she had never heard a gunshot before and hearing those sounds really startled her. The witness is excused.

The next witness up is Charl Johnson. He is the husband of previous witness Michelle Burger and is an IT Project Manager. In the early morning hours of February 14, 2013, he heard the screams of a woman and was awakened. He lifted his head from his pillow to make sure that he heard what he thought he heard. When he realized they were screams, he jumped out of bed and ran to the balcony. He heard more screaming from the woman who was clearly in distress. At some point he heard the woman scream “help.” He then heard a man’s voice yell “help” three times.

At that point his wife said to her husband that they should call security. He came inside and they called from her cell phone where she already had a security phone number stored. He believed he was speaking to the security for the Silver Stream Estates where they lived. It was his intention to have them radio over to the Silverwood security next door to inform them that somebody was possibly being attacked in their home, possibly a home break. But it turned out that the security number they called was for security at a previous residence they lived in. His wife apparently had never programmed the new security number in to her phone. So they terminated the call.

Mr. Johnson went back to the balcony after that and heard the woman screaming again. At that point the intensity and the fear in her voice escalated and it was clear that she was in danger. He then heard the gun shots. During the session of shots, he heard the lady scream again. Her last scream faded away moments after the last gunshot was fired. He believed he may have heard 5-6 shots and that is what he reported to the police. He now knows that there were only 4 shots. He states he did not count them as they happened, he estimated what he heard. He did notice a small pause after the first shot, but the remaining shots were fired in close succession.

He then returned to the bedroom very alarmed. His wife said to him that she thought that woman’s husband may have just been shot in front of her. She came to that conclusion based on the screaming that they heard before and during the gunfire. He does not recall any other sounds or noises after that. Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Burger sat on their bed for a bit upset by what they had just heard. They didn’t speak much after that and then attempted to sleep a little bit more. He does recall hearing a security vehicle in the distance and assumed that somebody else over in that estate would have contacted security for help.

While laying in bed, Mr. Johnson started thinking about their own security and got up at 4am to measure his doors downstairs, laid back down in bed afterwards and got up at 5am. He got to work early at 6am and researched security doors online for their home. He did ask their front security guard on the way out of the complex that morning if he knew what happened over at Silverwood the night before and was told that they were aware that something had happened but they weren’t exactly certain what it was.

Mr. Johnson called a friend that morning and recited to him the same story that he is reciting in court. His friend said he would ask around to see if he could find out what happened and would call him back. Mr. Johnson then told some co-workers what had happened that evening. Afterwards, he got a call back from his friend who asked him to repeat his story, which he did. The friend then said he was hesitant to spread potential rumors but that he had heard that Oscar Pistorius had accidentally shot his girlfriend. It was difficult for Mr. Johnson to understand the story that was being told to him being that they really thought somebody was being attacked based on what they heard the night before.

After that call, he went back to speak with his co-workers and relayed to them the call he just had. During that time frame, one of the co-workers saw the story on the news. Mr. Johnson then called his wife. He asked her to relay to him what she remembered, which she did. He then told her that he had heard it was Oscar Pistorius involved in the incident with his girlfriend. They were both equally surprised to hear that it was a domestic violence type incident since they really believed it was some type of house break attack based on the screams.

They continued to watch coverage throughout the day and saw some aerial footage of the area on TV. He was surprised to see how close they actually were located to where Oscar Pistorius lived.

Here is an aerial view of Oscar’s home and surrounding estate area.

OP aerial view of home

When he got home after work he went up on to his rooftop so that he could see over the neighbor’s trees, and he was able to see Oscar’s house from there. He took a photo from there to document the distance. He then went on to Google Earth to measure the distance from his home to Oscar’s home.

He also spoke to his neighbor next door to see if he had heard anything the night before. The neighbor stated that they only woke up during the last gunshot. They think they may have missed the other noises because they had a ceiling fan on in their room which created a humming noise.

Nel then moved on to ask him how they came about giving a statement to the police. Mr. Johnson stated that they initially did not want to get involved. He assumed that there would be other neighbors who were much closer to the incident that would testify and they would not be needed. As more information came out in the media, they realized that there were no other witnesses nearby Oscar’s home that were coming forth.

On February 19th, 2013, the day of the bail hearing, Mr. Johnson ran in to one of their neighbors who lived over in Silverwood. He asked her if she had heard anything that night. She stated no but believed it was probably because they have air conditioning and were using it that night which probably flushed out any noises.

Mr. Johnson and his wife then listened to Oscar’s bail proceeding on the radio that day and heard the defense lawyer state that the only scream that came from Oscar’s house that night was from the accused. Mr. Johnson heard something different that night and felt obliged to come forward and tell his version. Because this was such a highly publicized case he and his wife did not want to go straight to the police fearing the publicity. They wanted to be quiet about it. So Mrs. Burger contacted an advocate friend who advised them to make notes of everything they each remembered. This advocate stated that he knows Mr. Nel and would contact him to provide their statements. A few days later the investigating team came to their home to speak with them. A week later, detective Van Aardt came out and they gave official statements that were used for an affidavit.

Court was then adjourned for the day. Mr. Johnson will be back tomorrow for cross-examination.