By Martin Williams
JOHANNESBURG, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The trial of South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius opened in Pretoria on Monday. The Blade Runner denied murdering his girl friend Reeva Steenkamp but his neighbor Michelle Burger told the court that she heard a woman screaming and a man shouting.
Steenkamp was shot dead by Pistorius in his house on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, in 2013.
On the first day of his murder trial in Pretoria's North Gauteng High Court, Pistorius pleaded not guilty to murdering Steenkamp. He denied he and Steenkamp had been arguing shortly before she died.
Michelle Burger, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, told the court that she heard four shots, after which the screaming and shouting stopped.
Pistorius, 27, admits he shot and killed Steenkamp in his luxury home at Silver Woods in Pretoria in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013. His advocate Kenny Oldwage told the court on Monday that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. She was locked in the bathroom of his home at the time of the shooting, with a cell phone in her possession.
Pistorius has often been depicted in South African media as an avid fan of guns. He routinely slept with a firearm and a cricket bat nearby, in order to defend himself.
On Monday he pleaded not guilty to several offences under South Africa's Firearms Act. These include discharging a firearm from a moving vehicle in 2012, discharging a firearm in plush Johannesburg restaurant on January 2013, and unlawfully having ammunition in his possession at his home
Both the prosecution and the defence acknowledge that Pistorius fired four shots through a locked bathroom door, hitting Steenkamp three times inside the bathroom.
During a bail application in 2013, South African state prosecutor Gerrie Nel claimed that Pistorius had put on his prosthetic legs, walked across his bedroom to the bathroom, and intentionally shot Steenkamp through the door. This interpretation has been challenged by the defence.
Pistorius maintains that he had not put on his prosthetics before shooting into the bathroom. He said he had thought Steenkamp was in the bed, and that the person in the bathroom was an intruder.
The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, has attracted massive media attention, with a special TV channel being set aside.
Streets around the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria's central business district were temporarily closed to traffic. Many rooftops in the area were taken over by camera crews.
Pistorius was born with deformed feet and without fibula bones in his legs. After both legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, he overcame many obstacles to win a clutch of medals at the Paralympics.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Pistorius became the first double-leg amputee to participate alongside able-bodied athletes when he competed in the men's 400 metres and 4x400 metres relay races.
He has been a poster hero for several companies, including Nike, Oakley, Ossur, BT and Thierry Mugler. At the time of the shooting he was earning an average of two million U.S. dollars a year.