Lead Pistorius officer replaced
Hilton Botha, the lead detective in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, sits in court today. Botha is himself facing attempted murder charges for firing on a minibus full of passengers, South African police said. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
The lead detective in the Oscar Pistorius murder investigation has been replaced by a senior police officer after it emerged he was facing seven attempted murder charges for opening fire on a minibus full of passengers.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega, local media said Hilton Botha, who endured a difficult time on the stand at the Paralympic and Olympic track star's bail hearing this week, had been removed from the case pending an internal police probe.
Shortly after the third day of Pistorius’s bail hearing drew to a close, Commissioner Riah Phiyega told reporters that Mr Botha would be replaced by “the most senior detective” in the force, Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo.
“I have decided to assign this very important investigation under the leadership and stewardship of the divisonal commissioner, Lt Gen Moonoo,” said Commissioner Phiyega.
“He will lead the process of establishing a team of highly skilled and professional detectives. They shall continue with this investigation.”
Charges against Mr Botha over the 2011 shooting were initially dropped but the National Prosecuting Authority told Reuters they were reinstated on February 4th - 10 days before Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home.
"The decision to reinstate was taken on February 4th, way before the issue of Mr Pistorius came to light or the murder of Reeva was committed," NPA spokesman Medupe Simasiku told Reuters. "It's completely unrelated to this trial."
It is also unclear how the latest twist in Mr Pistorius's dramatic four-day bail hearing will affect the athlete's chances of securing release from custody pending his trial.
At the time of the taxi bus shooting, Mr Botha - a detective with 24 years on the force - was chasing a man accused of murdering a woman and disposing of her dismembered body down a drain, local media said.
Mr Pistorius, a double amputee dubbed 'Blade Runner' because of his carbon fibre racing blades, faces life in prison if convicted of the premeditated murder of Ms Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day.
Sportswear giant Nike froze its contract with Mr Pistorius today saying the athlete should be "afforded due process".
Other companies with sponsorship deals, including British telecoms firm BT, US sunglasses maker Oakley and French designer Thierry Mugler, have declined to comment on their contracts while Mr Pistorius's bail hearing is taking place.
The hearing in Pretoria was adjourned at 1400 GMT and will restart tomorrow morning, when a decision is expected.
The revelations about Mr Botha capped a troubling 24 hours for South Africa's prosecution service.