The already bizarre case of Oscar Pistorius took another unbelievable turn when it was revealed that the lead police investigator is facing his own criminal charges for attempted murder. Hilton Botha, the Pretoria police detective who was the first to arrive at the scene of the Valentine's Day shooting, had gathered most of the evidence against Pistorius and testified in preliminary hearings that he believes Reeva Steenkamp's death was premeditated murder. Yet, after his contentious court testimony on Wednesday, Botha learned that he himself is facing seven charges of attempted murder from a shooting incident he was involved in a year and a half ago. Botha has reportedly been dropped from the investigation, but will still be called to testify about what he already knows.
In October 2011, Botha and two other policemen were arrested after they opened fire on a minibus taxi that was carrying seven people. The officers claimed they were in pursuit of a wanted murder suspect, but there were accusations that they were drunk at the time of the shooting. The case against them was eventually dropped and no charges were filed. However, it appears that on February 4 of this year, ten days before Pistorius shot Steenkamp, prosecutors decided to reinstate the charges. It seems that neither Botha, nor the prosecutors in the Pistorius case knew about the new charges before Botha was assigned to the case or called to deliver evidence on Wednesday.
The timing of the charges in the Botha case is very odd and may seem suspicious, but does appear to be completely unrelated to Pistorius. However, the prosecution's case could be seriously undermined by having its No. 1 witness on trial for his own attempted murders. Defense lawyers were already questioning Botha's interpretation of the evidence and his methods—he's already admitted to at least one error—and it won't be hard to call his credibility into question after this revelation. As we said yesterday, this case will ultimately come down to Pistorius's word against the police's—and the Olympic sports hero is starting to look like the better witness.
The bail hearing for Pistorius entered its third day on Thursday, and court expects to issue a ruling by Friday morning. All of South Africa has been gripped by the news of the trial with one taxi driver in Johannesburg telling Reuters, "We talk about the case every day. It's all over the news. You can't ignore it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.