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Neighbor of Pistorius testifies at murder trial

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Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Using witness accounts of a panicked nighttime phone call from Pistorius begging for help and his desperate pleas for Reeva Steenkamp to stay alive, the defense at his murder trial tried to reinforce its case Monday that the double-amputee Olympian fatally shot his girlfriend in a tragic error of judgment. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Oscar Pistorius arrives at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Using witness accounts of a panicked nighttime phone call from Pistorius begging for help and his desperate pleas for Reeva Steenkamp to stay alive, the defense at his murder trial tried to reinforce its case Monday that the double-amputee Olympian fatally shot his girlfriend in a tragic error of judgment. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Oscar Pistorius looks back as he arrives at the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Using witness accounts of a panicked nighttime phone call from Pistorius begging for help and his desperate pleas for Reeva Steenkamp to stay alive, the defense at his murder trial tried to reinforce its case Monday that the double-amputee Olympian fatally shot his girlfriend in a tragic error of judgment. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Oscar Pistorius, cradles his head in his hands during court proceedings in Pretoria, South Africa, Monday, May 5, 2014, at the resumption of his murder trial, following a two week break. Pistorius is charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day in 2013. (AP Photo. (AP Photo/Thobile Mathonsi, Pool)

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A man who lives next to the house where Oscar Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend testified Tuesday at the athlete’s murder trial about the night of the killing, saying he heard a man crying loudly and that he called the security of the housing estate for help.

Michael Nhlengethwa was a witness summoned by the Olympian’s defense team, which contends that Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp by mistake after believing there was an intruder in his home on Feb. 14, 2013. The prosecution says Pistorius intentionally killed Steenkamp after the couple had an argument.

The disabled runner shot four times through a toilet cubicle door with his 9 mm pistol, hitting Steenkamp in the hip, arm and head.

Security checks at the courthouse where Pistorius is on trial were disrupted early Tuesday because of what police said was a protest over work conditions by security staff, who left their posts and gathered outside the building. Some people entered the courthouse without having their bags checked, and Pistorius was heard asking whether a security check had been conducted as he entered the courtroom.

Nhlengethwa, who was Pistorius’ next-door neighbor, testified that his wife woke him up after hearing a bang and that he did not hear gunshots. He said he then heard a man crying in a high-pitched voice that indicated he urgently needed help. Nhlengethwa could not make out most of what the man was saying, though he heard the words: “No, please, please, no.”

The neighbor’s bedroom window was around 25 meters (80 feet) from the balcony doors of Pistorius’ bedroom, closer than neighbors called by prosecutors and who said they heard a woman screaming on the night of the shooting.

The defense was trying to present Nhlengethwa as a more reliable witness on the events of the night because of how much closer he lived to Pistorius’ villa. A neighbor who testified to hearing a woman’s “blood-curdling” screams on the night lived around 170 meters (560 feet) from Pistorius’ house.

Nhlengethwa testified that he called estate security to ask them to come to their road.

During the testimony, Pistorius sat on a wooden bench in the courtroom, looking impassively at the witness.

Nhlengethwa, who said he runs a civil engineering company, earlier described how Pistorius was the first neighbor to welcome him to the gated community when he moved there in late 2009.

“He was basically that friendly neighbor,” Nhlengethwa said. He said he also met Steenkamp once on the weekend before she was killed by Pistorius, and was struck by the warmth of her personality.

“I don’t think I will ever forget that moment,” he said. “She just opened her arms. She just came and hugged me.”

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Imray reported from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Associated Press

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