Pistorius shock: Detective Botha on attempted murder charges

Athlete's chances of bail look better as humiliated detective turns out to be facing trial himself

Hilton Botha Oscar Pistorius 210213
Detective Hilton Botha
(Image credit: Getty Images)

OSCAR PISTORIUS'S bail hearing in Pretoria has taken an extraordinary turn, with the revelation that the police officer leading the case is himself facing seven charges of attempted murder. The BBC's Today programme reported this morning that many involved in the hearing were "flummoxed" by the news. Reporters covering the hearing, due to restart at 9am UK time, are speculating on what effect it could have on the magistrate's bail decision.

The officer is Detective Hilton Botha, who was humiliated in court yesterday when, having declared that he was certain the killing of Reeva Steenkamp was premeditated, was forced to admit that he had no evidence to contradict Pistorius's story that he accidentally shot his model girlfriend, thinking that she was an intruder.

The case against Botha is that he was one of three officers, all drunk, who were driving a police car when they opened fire on a minibus taxi – or combi, as they are called in South Africa - carrying seven passengers

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The three officers were arrested in 2011 but the charges of attempted murder were withdrawn.

This morning, police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila announced that the South African Director of Public Prosecution had now decided to reinstate the charges and that Botha will face trial in May.

"It was only yesterday that we were informed by the DPP that he is being charged," said Malila.

According to the Eyewitness News, Malila said there were no plans to pull Botha off the investigation. "The member is innocent until proven guilty. The member was chosen by the station to do the investigation due to the fact that he is a senior."

But criminal law specialist William Booth said the revelation could have an impact on the bail decision. "If a witness testifies and it’s established he has previous convictions or pending cases, it's a factor which may play a role in respect to his credibility."

Yesterday, magistrate Desmond Nair showed signs that he might allow bail. He intervened at one point to ask Botha if he thought Pistorius would skip bail: "The accused before court is an international athlete, paralympic athlete, he uses prosthesis on both legs. I'm sure we would both agree that his face is widely recognised internationally. Do you subjectively believe that he would take the opportunity, being who he is, using prosthetics to get around, to flee South Africa?"

There was laughter in court when Botha replied "Yes".

The Guardian, reporting from the courtroom early today, says Pistorius "looked more calm and composed than at any point so far, while the smiles on his family's faces suggested that they felt momentum was shifting his way".

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