South African police have put a new detective in charge of the Oscar Pistorius prosecution, after attempted murder charges against the initial lead detective surfaced. Pistorius' bail hearing is ongoing.
The bail hearing for Olympian and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius adjourned on Thursday without a decision, to reconvene on Friday.
The head of the South African police, meanwhile, announced that lead detective Hilton Botha would be taken off the case and replaced by another officer. Botha faces charges of attempted murder himself, from 2011, with a court case probable in May of this year.
"We recognize the significance, the importance… and the severity of the matter," police commissioner Manwashi Phiyega said, announcing that the case had been assigned to a national investigator, Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo. She said Moonoo was South African police's "top detective."
Local detective Hilton Botha is accused of seven counts of attempted murder for allegedly firing shots at a small minibus carrying seven people in the course of an investigation. Local media reported that he was chasing a murder suspect at the time. Botha said that the renewed interest in his case might be the result of his high-profile testimony at Pistorius' bail hearing on Wednesday.
The charges for the 2011 incident were initially dropped, but there were conflicting reports on when the investigation was reinstated. South Africa's SAPA news agency initially reported that the case was reopened on Wednesday after Botha's testimony, but the National Prosecuting Authority later told Reuters news agency that the charges were reinstated on February 4 this year, 10 days before the death of Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
"The decision to reinstate was taken on Feb. 4, way before the issue of Pistorius came to light or the murder of Reeva was committed," NPA spokesman Medupe Simasiku told Reuters.
Pistorius, who sprints using carbon-fiber prosthetics after his legs were removed in his infancy, is charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend Steenkamp.
Claim of innocence
The track star says he shot Steenkamp at his home on Valentine's Day by mistake, presuming her to be an intruder.
South African police have come under heavy criticism during the high-profile case, admitting in several instances to procedural errors and omissions while investigating the crime scene. Botha was one of the key witnesses to claim during testimony that Pistorius was considered a flight risk, arguing against the case for bail.
Sportswear giant Nike confirmed on its website late on Wednesday that it had suspended its promotional contract with Pistorius, though the company also said it believed "Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process."
msh/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)