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June 27, 2017

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Pistorius trial enters emotional second day

PRETORIA -- A key witness who testified to hearing screams then gunshots from Oscar Pistorius's home the night his girlfriend was killed, broke down and wept in court Tuesday, saying she still relives the "terrifying screams" she heard.

In an emotive second day of the South African Paralympian's murder trial, a shaken Michelle Burger sobbed after tough cross-examination, saying the events of Valentine's Day 2013, when Reeva Steenkamp was killed, still haunted her.

"When I'm in the shower, I relive her shouts. The terrifying screams," she told the North Gauteng High Court.

The university lecturer has testified that she heard screams, then gunshots, then more screams from Pistorius's Pretoria home less than 200 meters (yards) away from her own.

Her account of events directly contradicts the sports star's claim that he shot Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder.

Tuesday's proceedings began with Pistorius's lawyer redoubling efforts to pick apart Burger's account of events, accusing her of jumping to conclusions.

"You made up your mind that his version could not be," said defense advocate Barry Roux.

"You interpreted cricket bat shots to be gunshots and screaming to be a woman and not Oscar. If you didn't do that, his version would make sense."

Criminal law advocate Dave Smith, who is not linked to the case, told AFP that Burger "looks solid as a rock" in the witness stand.

"It's important to prove her wrong but I don't think he will," he said. "I'm happy I'm not him."

Tensions in court were further heightened when a statement was read explaining the violent nature of the 29-year-old model and law graduate's death.

As Roux claimed a gunshot wound to the head would have made it impossible for Steenkamp to scream, Pistorius bowed his head and folded his hands behind his neck.

"The person with that brain damage will have no cognitive response," continued Roux. "It cannot be. She could not have screamed."

Prosecution lawyer Gerrie Nel interjected to say it was the last of four shots that struck Steenkamp's head, the first two hitting her right side, the wall and her shoulder.

Meanwhile, across the court, one of Steenkamp's relatives touched a photo of the budding reality TV star, as a man put his arm around her.

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