Pistorius witness: 'bloodcurdling screams', then four shots

PRETORIA - The first witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial told the court on Monday she heard "bloodcurdling" screams from a woman followed by four shots, offering dramatic testimony of the incident in which Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend last year.

Taking the stand just after the Olympic and Paralympic star pleaded not guilty to murdering 29-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year, Michelle Burger, who lived in a nearby estate, told of being woken in the middle of the night by a woman screaming and shouting for help.

"I was still sitting in the bed and I heard her screams," Burger said, speaking in Afrikaans through an interpreter. "She screamed terribly and she yelled for help. Then I also heard a man screaming for help. Three times he yelled for help."

"Just after her screams, I heard four shots. Four gunshots ... 'Bang ...bang, bang, bang'," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. At Burger's request, her testimony was not shown on television, but the audio was broadcast live.

"It was very traumatic for me. You could hear that it was bloodcurdling screams," Burger added.

The 27-year-old Pistorius, who was born without legs but reached the 2012 Olympic 400 metres semi-final running on carbon-fibre "blades", argues that the killing of law graduate Steenkamp was a tragic case of mistaken identity.

He says he mistook her for an intruder hiding in the upstairs toilet of his luxury Pretoria home.