The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 21, 2013

Prosecutors: Pistorius top cop should be dropped



PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Prosecutors reinstated attempted murder charges against a policeman leading the murder investigation into world-famous athlete Oscar Pistorius, in the latest twist in a case that has captivated South Africa and threatens to bring down a national idol.

The announcement that detective Hilton Botha faces reinstated charges in connection with a 2011 shooting incident came a day after he testified for the prosecution in Pistorius' bail hearing, and by all accounts bungled his appearance. He acknowledged Wednesday that nothing in Pistorius' account of the fatal Valentine's Day shooting of his girlfriend contradicted what police had discovered.

The spokeswoman for the nation's prosecutors urged that Botha be removed from the Pistorius case.

Pistorius, an Olympian whose lower legs were amputated when he was less than a year old, claims he mistook girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder when he shot her in a locked bathroom in his home.

Bulewa Makeke, spokeswoman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, acknowledged Thursday that the timing of the attempted murder charges is "totally weird" but said Botha should be dropped from the case against the world-famous athlete. However, Makeke said the charges against Botha were reinstated on Feb. 4, before his testimony Wednesday and even before Steenkamp was killed. Police said they were notified Wednesday of the reinstated charges which stem from a 2011 shooting incident in which Botha and two other officers allegedly fired at a minibus.

Makeke indicated the charge was reinstated because more evidence had been gathered. She said the charge against Botha was initially dropped "because there was not enough evidence at the time. But then, obviously the investigation continued up to the fourth (of) February and the senior public prosecutor was in a position to make a decision to reinstate the case."

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