Peroshni Govender | Reuters
Published — Thursday 21 February 2013
Last update 21 February 2013 4:07 pm
PRETORIA: The lead detective in athlete Oscar Pistorius’ murder case is himself facing attempted murder charges for opening fire on a minibus containing seven people in 2011, South African police said on Thursday.
Hilton Botha, who took the stand against Pistorius at the Paralympic and Olympic track star’s bail hearing this week, is due to appear in court in May, police spokesman Brig. Neville Malila said.
“Botha and two other policemen allegedly tried to stop a minibus taxi with seven people. They fired shots,” Malila told Reuters.
At the time, Botha was chasing a man accused of murdering a woman, chopping her up and stuffing the body parts down a drain, local media said.
The charges against Botha were provisionally withdrawn but were reinstated on on Feb. 4-10 days before the shooting of 29-year-old model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp in a locked toilet at Pistorius’ Pretoria home, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.
“The decision to reinstate was taken on Feb. 4, way before the issue of Pistorius came to light or the murder of Reeva was committed,” NPA spokesman Medupe Simasiku told Reuters. “It’s completely unrelated to this trial.”
Malila said now that the court had decided to charge Botha, there would be an internal disciplinary investigation which would decide whether to keep him on the case.
“At this stage there are no plans to take him off the Pistorius case.”
It was unclear why the charges were reinstated against Botha, or how the latest twist in Pistorius’ sensational four-day bail hearing will affect the athlete’s chances of securing release from custody pending his main trial.
Pistorius — a double amputee dubbed “Blade Runner” because of his carbon fiber racing blades — faces life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder over the shooting of his girlfriend.
The latest twists cap an ignominious 24 hours for South Africa’s prosecution service.
Under cross-examination at the bail hearing on Wednesday, Botha was accused of contaminating the crime scene in Pistorius’ house and had to backtrack on details such as the distance of witnesses from the athlete’s home.
Grilled by lead defense counsel Barry Roux, he also had to concede that Pistorius’ version of events — that he fired into the toilet door thinking an intruder was lurking behind it — was plausible.
The bail hearing for Pistorius, 26, is due to restart at 0900 GMT. He is accused of shooting dead Steenkamp at his home in the early hours of Thursday last week — Valentine’s Day.