The bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius took a shocking turn Thursday after it was revealed that the head investigator into the killing of the South African Olympian’s girlfriend is facing attempted murder charges, leading to him being pulled off the case.
The courtroom in Pretoria was also briefly cleared when an unknown “threat” temporarily shut down the proceedings on the third day of Pistorius’ bail hearing.
Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder for the Valentine’s Day killing of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The South African runner, who was the first amputee to participate in an Olympics during the 2012 Games in London, admitted to shooting Steenkamp but maintained that he mistook her for an intruder.
Detective Hilton Botha, the lead investigator on the Pistorius murder investigation, has had seven charges of attempted murder reinstated against him for a police-involved shooting of a minibus taxi back in 2011, South African media outlet Eyewitness News reported. The charges were reinstated after new evidence against Botha was obtained.
Prosecutors who called Botha as a witness during the bail hearing said they were not aware of the pending charges against the lead investigator, whose bungled testimony was a setback for the prosecution.
Botha testified that a witness claimed they heard “non-stop fighting” and shouting between Pistorius and Steenkamp shortly before the killing. But Pistorius’ attorney, Barry Roux, got the detective to say on cross-examination that the witness lived roughly half a mile away from the runner’s Pretoria home.
He also revealed that police initially did not use protective footwear, which could have led to contamination of the crime scene.
“What we really need to understand now is what the police’s stand is because they know that Botha is facing charges so they have to relocate another one,” National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Bulelwa Makeke told the South African media outlet.
Eyewitness News reporter Alex Eliseev tweeted that Mike Van Aardt is expected to take over the investigation. Eliseev described Van Aardt as a “behind-the-scenes wizard” who “has worked on many high-profile cases” in South Africa.
It’s unclear whether Botha will be suspended due to the charges pending against him.
On the third day of the bail hearing, Roux claimed there was no evidence that Pistorius committed murder, and said the Olympic runner was desperate to save Steenkamp’s life after realizing he shot her in the bathroom of his Pretoria home.