The latest controversy in the Oscar ‘Bladerunner’ Pistorius case surrounds the initially appointed lead investigator. Detective Hilton Botha has been replaced this morning (Feb. 21) after the revelation that he himself is facing attempted murder charges. Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo, the top detective of the South African police department, will resume Botha’s duties as read investigator.
Pistorius, the celebrated double-amputee Olympic runner is facing murder charges after his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was pronounced dead in his home. The model suffered three gunshot wounds which were delivered by Pistorius in his bathroom.
Botha will stand trial in May to face seven counts of attempted murder after he and two of his fellow officers allegedly shot at a minibus during an arrest attempt. Charges were at first dropped against Botha in March 2012, but had been reinstated on Feb. 4. In conjuction with his criminal charges, Botha’s investigation had come under scrutiny after a few slip-ups by police.
Police findings in the investigation of the scene have weakened the prosecution’s case against Pistorius. Botha admitted in court that the scene may have been compromised, that police had lost track of the
illegal ammunition and that specific distances reported may have been poorly judged. Prosecution is now struggling to discredit Pistorius’ claim that he believed Steenkamp was an intruder. They are also having trouble proving that the Olympic star is a flight risk in order to delay bail.
South African National Commissioner Riah Phiyega said the case “shall receive attention at the national level” and that the newly-appointed Moonoo will “gather a team of highly skilled and experience detectives.”
“Botha has done what he was supposed to do,” Phiyega said. “Now we are going into the long haul of the investigation.”
Pistorius’ defense lawyer Barry Roux is fighting to uphold the Olympic runner’s intruder claim to combat the prosecutor’s notion that Steenkamp’s killing was premeditated. The faulty investigation is a chief defense.
“The poor quality of the evidence offered by investigative officer Botha exposed the disastrous shortcomings of the state’s case,” Roux said at this morning’s hearing. “We cannot sit back and take comfort that he is telling the truth.”
The hearing will continue on Friday (Feb. 22) morning as the magistrate decides whether or not to grant Pistorius bail.