The lead detective in the murder case against Olympian Oscar Pistorius faces seven charges of attempted murder over a 2011 shooting incident, South African police revealed Thursday. However, contradicting reports emerged in the media on the removal of the lead detective from the Pistorius case.
Detective Hilton Botha, who is investigating into the Reeva Steenkamp murder case, is scheduled to appear in court in May over a 2011 incident, in which he and two other officers reportedly fired shots from a government-owned vehicle, while attempting to stop a minibus carrying seven people, in Oct. 2011.
Botha faces seven counts of attempted murder charges, Police Brigadier Neville Malila told the Associated Press.
On Thursday, the third day of trial on the bail application moved by the defense, Botha who was initially absent in the court was summoned by the Chief Magistrate.
The revelation has given a serious blow to the prosecution case against Pistorius. A series of statements made by Botha during the Pistorius bail plea exposed the goof-ups in the police investigation. Botha crumbling under the cross-examination Wednesday had admitted that he is not sure of his claim that his team had found two boxes of testosterone and needles, banned in many sports, during their search of the house after the murder.
He initially said in the court that he found two boxes of steroids in Pistorius’ home, shocking the courtroom and immediately corrected himself saying he found testosterone and needles. Later, while questioned by the defense advocate Barry Roux, he admitted he was not certain about the contents.
Roux clarified it was an "herbal remedy" called testo-compositum co-enzyme used by many athletes, and added that "it is not a steroid and it is not a banned substance," the Guardian reported.
He also admitted that prosecution does not have any proof that can counter the athlete’s version of happenings on the day of murder. Cross-examination by Roux also exposed sloppy police investigation and Botha was left gasping for answers.
Also, Botha was forced to backtrack on his claim that one of the witnesses in the case had heard a fight – loud voices arguing – on Feb.14 between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Over intense questioning by Roux, Botha admitted that his witness had not identified the voices as belonging to Pistorius and Steenkamp. Initially, he said witnesses lived 600 meters away from Pistorius’ house and later re-estimated the distance to be 300 meters.
Answering the questions from the Magistrate Thursday, he admitted that his team has not yet verified the cell phone records of Steenkamp and conceded that the process of getting the phone records could have been sped up.
On the third day of trial, in a dramatic twist, a non-practicing female attorney claimed that the constitution of South Africa has been affected by the case and she sought to move an application that "addresses Pistorius' mental state." She said the proceedings should take place in camera and the mental state of Pistorius must be evaluated.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair hearing the case said he will not be hearing any application other than from the counsel involved and asked her to move the high court with her plea.
Contradicting Reports Emerge On Botha’s Removal From The Case
Contradicting media reports emerged Thursday on Botha continuing as the investigating officer. Some media reports quoting the sources from prosecution office said Botha is taken off the case. His absence in the court when the procedures began Thursday strengthened the speculations. However, both Botha and the prosecutor later stated that he is not removed from the case.
Botha attended the court later after Justice Nair summoned him to be present in the court.
AFP reported that following the revelation that Hilton Botha faces seven counts of murder charges, he has been dropped from the investigating team.
The National Prosecuting Authority has announced that he will now be dropped from the case. A spokesman told Eyewitness News that Botha "cannot continue with this case," Sky News reported.
However, Police Brig. Neville Malila told Reuters that the charges against Botha were dropped initially following the shooting incident but reinstated later.
“We were informed yesterday that the charges will be reinstated,” he said. “At this stage, there are no plans to take him off the Pistorius case.”
South African sporting hero Pistorius - a double amputee Olympian and Paralympian who uses prosthetic legs - was seeking bail after he was arrested on charges of killing his 29-year-old model-girlfriend, in a Pretoria Magistrate court Tuesday. According to prosecution, Pistorius fired four shots at Steenkamp through a closed bathroom door at his home in a pre-meditated murder attempt.
Twenty-six-year-old Pistorius admitted to shooting through a closed bathroom door at his home, but claimed that he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar while firing the shots. He said he had no intention of killing his girlfriend.