PRETORIA, South Africa – The lead investigator in the murder case against Oscar Pistorius faces attempted murder charges himself over a 2011 shooting, police said Thursday in another potentially damaging blow to the prosecution.
Prosecutors said they were unaware of the charges against veteran detective Hilton Botha when they put him on the stand in court to explain why Pistorius should not be given bail in the Valentine’s Day shooting death of his girlfriend.
Prosecutors say Pistorius intentionally killed model Reeva Steenkamp and have charged him with premeditated murder. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and that the shooting was accidental.
Police Brig. Neville Malila told The Associated Press that Botha – who gave testimony in the Pistorius bail hearing on Wednesday – is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder related to an incident in October 2011 when Botha and two other police officers fired at a minibus they were trying to stop.
Malila said police had learned Wednesday, the same day that Botha appeared in court to oppose Pistorius’ bail application, that the charges against Botha and the two others had been reinstated by the Director of Public Prosecutions. They were initially dropped following the shooting incident.
Malila said police were now waiting for details from the Botha case file from the public prosecutor.
Medupe Simasiku, the spokesman for the prosecutors charging Pistorius with premeditated murder, said he couldn’t say how the charges against Botha would affect their case against Pistorius.
In the state case against the Olympic athlete, Botha offered often confused testimony and conceded that nothing in Pistorius’ account the Steenkamp shooting contradicted the police’s version.
Simasiku said that based on the reinstated accusation against Botha, “we can take action and see if we remove him from the investigation or if he stays.”
Botha was the lead investigator in an assault claim against Pistorius in 2009. Pistorius’ lawyers said police arrested the athlete and held him overnight at a police station and said they will pursue a lawsuit against police for wrongful arrest.
The current case against Pistorius, which is still only in a bail hearing, has riveted much of the world. Pistorius, 26-year-old the man known as the Blade Runner for his carbon-fiber running prosthetic legs, says he fired shots through the locked door of a toilet enclosed inside his bathroom because he thought there was an intruder in there.
Steenkamp was hit three times, in the head, right elbow and right hip, police say, and prosecutors argue Pistorius intended to kill his 29-year-old girlfriend after a fight in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.