Posted Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, at 10:10 AM
South African investigating officer Hilton Botha attends on February 19, 2013 the bail hearing of South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria
Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
The past 48 hours have been rough ones for the prosecution's case against Oscar Pistorius. They've been even worse for the South African detective, Hilton Botha, who had led the investigation into the Olympic hero's alleged murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Police announced this morning that Botha, a 24-year veteran of the force, has been charged with seven counts of attempted murder stemming from a shooting in October 2011 when he and two other officers allegedly opened fire on a mini-bus taxi carrying seven people. The exact circumstances around that incident are unclear, but local media reports suggest that the officers claim that they had aimed at the wheels of the vehicle in an attempt to stop it while they were in pursuit of a murder suspect, one accused of killing and dismembering a woman. The three officers, however, have faced allegations that they were drunk at the time of the shooting, something Botha has denied.
The attempted murder charges were later dropped, only to be reinstated on February 4, ten days before Botha arrived on the scene at Pistorius' home in the predawn hours of Valentine's Day. It appears as though—and one would hope—the police department was unaware of the reinstated charges at that time. A spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority admitted this morning that the timing was "totally weird" but said the decision to charge Botha was completely unrelated to the Pistorius case. According to the Associated Press, the police department decided to officially drop Botha from the Pistorius investigation this morning at the request of the prosecution. Regardless, as Botha led the initial crime-scene work at Pistorius's home, he'll still likely be called to testify if the case proceeds to trial.
The stunning news of Botha's charges came one day after the detective had a rough time under cross-examination by Pistorius's defense lawyers. Here's how the AP summed up his time on the stand yesterday, during which he somewhat confusingly conceded that he'd found nothing "inconsistent" between his investigation and the version of events laid out by Pistorius in an affidavit read to the court earlier this week:
Testimony by Botha left prosecutors rubbing their temples, only able to look down at their notes as he misjudged distances and acknowledged that a forensics team left in the toilet bowl one of the bullet slugs fired at Reeva Steenkamp.
Things didn't get any better for the prosecution after Botha was done talking. Later Wednesday, the prosecution felt it necessary to walk back his claims that police had found boxes of testosterone in the sprinter's bedroom, saying that they had not yet positively identified the substance that was recovered by investigators.