Hilton Botha relaxes during a break in court proceedings
relating to the Pistorius home shooting, at the Pretoria
Magistrates court. Botha has since been pulled off the
case. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
South African police investigating Oscar Pistorius for
murder have pulled their lead detective off the "Blade Runner"
athlete's case after it emerged he himself faces attempted
murder charges for shooting at a minibus.
Battling embarrassment in the glare of a global media
spotlight, they named the nation's most senior detective to
take over, as preliminary hearings to decide whether the
Olympic and Paralympic star can go free on bail were
adjourned until Friday.
Hilton Botha, the initial lead investigator had already faced
a torrid time over his evidence from defence counsel this
week, and police commissioner Riah Phiyega said he might
become distracted by the charges relating to the bus shooting
"From this point forward, I will take over," Lieutenant
General Vinesh Moonoo told Reuters. A 32-year veteran of the
force, he added: "It will not affect the court proceedings."
Charges against Warrant Office Botha over the taxi minibus
shooting had been dropped but the National Prosecuting
Authority told Reuters they were reinstated on Feb. 4 - 10
days before Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his
"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."
It is not clear whether the dismissal of Botha would affect
the athlete's chances of securing release from custody
pending his trial. After a fourth day of bail hearings, the
judge said the court would sit again on the matter on Friday.
At the time of the shooting in 2011, Botha was chasing a man
accused of murdering a woman and disposing of her dismembered
body down a drain, local media said.
Pistorius, who was born without bones in his lower legs and
runs on carbon-fibre racing blades, faces life in prison if
convicted of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp in the
early hours of Valentine's Day. He denies murder and his
lawyers say he opened fire with a pistol at what he thought
was a burglar.
Sportswear giant Nike froze its endorsement contract with
Pistorius on Thursday saying the athlete should be "afforded
Other companies with sponsorship deals, including British
telecoms firm BT, U.S. sunglasses maker Oakley and French
designer Thierry Mugler, have declined to comment on their
contracts while the bail hearing is continuing.
POLICE UNDER PRESSURE
The revelations about Botha capped a troubling 24 hours for
South Africa's prosecution service.
Under cross-examination at the hearing on Wednesday, the
detective was accused of contaminating the crime scene in
Pistorius's house and backtracked on details like the
distance of witnesses from the home when they heard shouts
Grilled by lead defence counsel Barry Roux, he also had to
concede that Pistorius's version of events - that he fired
into the toilet door in a blind panic thinking an intruder
was lurking behind it - was plausible.
"The poor quality of evidence presented by the chief
investigating officer exposed disastrous shortcomings in the
state's case." Roux said in arguing for Pistorius's release.
The 26-year-old runner denies murder and was more composed in
court after repeatedly breaking down in previous hearings.
His uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said his nephew was eating again
after consuming nothing for six days and had spent much of
his time in police custody reading the Bible.
A trial is likely to take many months to prepare, and even if
he is acquitted, Pistorius faces a huge challenge to rebuild
his career and image in the eyes of the millions around the
world who saw him as the epitome of triumph over adversity.
At the close of Thursday's arguments, prosecutor Gerrie Nel
tried to recapture the initiative, reminding the court of the
seriousness of the premeditated murder charges facing
"His actions are indicative of a man who was willing and
ready to kill," Nel said. "There were two people in the
"One survived to give his version."
SOUTH AFRICA AGOG
The proceedings have gripped South Africans, who have found
themselves debating the finer points of police forensics and
the ins and outs of the criminal justice process.
As public opinion has swayed back and forth, schoolchildren
have come to blows in playgrounds over the athlete's
innocence or guilt, and on Thursday "Hilton Botha" was a
top-trending topic on Twitter in South Africa.
"We talk about the case every day. It's all over the news.
You can't ignore it," said Happy Ngwenya, a taxi driver
waiting for rides in Johannesburg's Sandton financial
"He must face his music but the thing is, here in South
Africa, criminals have so many rights."
With huge international media interest in the case against a
global celebrity, many South Africans feel that apparent
initial slip-ups by the police are hurting the country's
"Bring someone from outside to sort out this mess," said
businessman Godfrey Baloyi. "The whole justice system needs