UK & World News
Oscar Pistorius: Sound Factor Crucial To Trial
The issue of sound - how far it can travel and whether noises late at night can be easily misinterpreted - is fast becoming a key factor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.
His defence team has already indicated it intends to call expert witnesses who will testify there is little chance the athlete's neighbours, who claim to have woken to the sound of screaming, shouting and gunshots, heard anything accurately at all.
Reeva Steenkamp was in a small toilet with the window closed when she was shot dead through the locked door by Pistorius, who claims to have mistaken her for an intruder in the early hours of Valentine's Day 2013.
The nearest neighbours, married couple Michelle Burger and Charl Peter Johnson, say they heard a woman's "blood-curdling" screams that night shortly before, during and shortly after four gunshots.
It was damaging evidence for the defence, casting serious doubt on Pistorius' assertion he thought Ms Steenkamp was in bed when he opened fire.
The clear inference from the evidence is if she was screaming loud enough to wake the neighbours before the gunshots, then the athlete must have known where she was.
But defence advocate Barry Roux has been fierce in his cross-examination, repeatedly stating the couple were 177 metres away, that they must have heard Oscar's screams not Reeva's.
And, crucially for their case, he argued the sounds that neighbours believed were gunshots could not have been the result of bullets being fired at all.
The defence says Pistorius bashed his way through to the bathroom door with a cricket bat after realising he had shot her by mistake.
The bangs of the bat, Mr Roux insisted, not the shots of a gun, were what they heard.
Pistorius' legal team have had a year to put together his case and they will have spent time collating the evidence that might poke holes in the neighbours' compelling and emotional accounts.
There will have been audio tests - re-enactments to show the sounds and distances involved - which will likely show how sound travels and distorts.
The prosecution has opened its case by creating a vivid picture - through sounds overheard - of a murder not an accident.
There was an argument, Ms Steenkamp screaming and terrified, and then gunshots.
The defence know they have to convince the judge that what was heard that night could still fit with Oscar Pistorius' version of events.
:: Sky News' live coverage of the trial is under way, and a special highlights programme will be broadcast every weekday at 9.30pm.
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