The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

February 21, 2013

Prosecutors: Detective should be dropped from Pistorius murder case

SUNBURY —

PRETORIA, South Africa — South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority acknowledged Thursday that the timing of attempted murder charges against a policeman leading the investigation into Oscar Pistorius was "totally weird" and that the policeman should be dropped from the case against the world-famous athlete.

Bulewa Makeke, spokeswoman for the NPA, said it was a decision for police and not prosecutors whether to take detective Hilton Botha off the case that has riveted the world's attention and is bringing scrutiny on South Africa's justice system. Botha testified on Wednesday in the case, acknowledging that nothing in Pistorius' account of the fatal Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend contradicted what police had discovered. That testimony in the double amputee's bail hearing marked a setback for the prosecution.

Botha was summoned by the magistrate on Thursday after police said charges have been reinstated against him in connection with a 2011 shooting incident in which he and two other officers allegedly fired at a minibus.

"Is he going to be dropped from the case? I don't know. I think the right thing would be for him to be dropped," Makeke said outside Pretoria Magistrate's Court shortly before Pistorius' bail hearing went into a third day. "Obviously there will be consultations between the two (police and prosecutors) to determine what is the best course of action."

Magistrate Desmond Nair questioned Botha over delays in processing records from phones found in Pistorius' house following the killing of 29--year-old Reeva Steenkamp. Prosecutors have charged Pistorius, a Paralympian who also competed in the London games last year, with premeditated murder. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder.

Botha also testified Thursday that he had investigated a 2009 complaint against Pistorius by a woman who claimed the athlete had assaulted her. He said that Pistorius had not hurt her and that the woman had actually injured herself when she kicked a door at Pistorius' home.

The chief prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, said in court Thursday that they were not aware that the charges against Botha had been recently reinstated when he testified against Pistorius. Police say that Botha and two other police officers fired at a minibus they were trying to stop and will appear in court in May to face seven counts of attempted murder.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend.

Pistorius' defense team on Thursday began to pick apart the state's case against him.

"The poor quality of the evidence offered by investigative officer Botha exposed the disastrous shortcomings of the state's case," Roux said Thursday as Pistorius sat calmly in the dock looking down at his hands.

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