South African officials have confiscated 49 cell phones used by police officers to take pictures of disgraced Oscar Pistorius after he was arrested for the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp, South Africa’s minister of police said in a written statement.
The former lead investigator also fears that local reporters attempted to purchase key pieces of evidence from the officers in the aftermath of the shooting, including the door that Pistorius fired through to kill Steenkamp during the Feb. 14 incident, The Associated Press reports.
Eventually, the bathroom door was removed from Pistorius’ house by way of a “body bag” and placed in a senior detective’s office, former detective Hilton Botha said.
According to the Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s Monday statement, the 49 cell phones were confiscated from officers working at the Boschkop police station in Pretoria. The officers had used the cell phones to photograph Pistorius’ transfer from a local court to the police station after his arrest.
“This action was necessary after it came to light that photos were taken of a high- profile individual who had been arrested,” Mthethwa wrote, in reply to a question by South Africa’s Democratic Alliance, an opposition party.
Mtethwa stated that four “official” cell phones and 45 private phones were confiscated on Feb. 20, less than a week after Pistorius’ arrest. While the police minister did not reveal the identities of the offending officers, he did mention that the phones could be used as evidence in possible disciplinary hearings. Mtethwa did not mention which officers, if any, were facing charges.
This isn’t the first time that the South African police ministry’s handling of the Pistorius case has been questioned. Botha, the same detective who provided testimony on the confiscated cell phones, gave “shaky” evidence at Pistorius’ initial bail hearing, The Associated Press reports.
Later, details emerged that Botha was facing seven counts of attempted murder, resulting in his dismissal from the case and resignation from the South African police force.
Botha claims that he ordered Pistorius’ bathroom door to be remanded to the Boschkop police station after a female officer claimed that she had been offered money to send photographs of it to the media, AP reports. The former lead detective learned that the offer came from an international media outlet. South Africa’s Star newspaper
He added that South African reporters had also attempted to purchase photographs of evidence, AP reports. No police officers have been charged with actually selling such photographs.
Pistorius, also known as the “Blade Runner,” was charged with murder after shooting Steenkamp to death. He denies the charges, claiming that he believed Steenkamp was a burgler when he shot her through the bathroom door. Pistorius’ next court appearance is scheduled for June 4.