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Johannesburg - Two-year-old attempted murder charges against the investigating officer in the Oscar Pistorius murder case, withdrawn and reinstated this month, stalled the Paralympian’s bail application on Thursday.
Police confirmed on Thursday morning that Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, who came under scrutiny from Pistorius’s defence team yesterday, was arrested in 2011 for allegedly firing at a minibus taxi along with two other officers while they were drunk.
The charges were reinstated on February 4, 10 days before Pistorius was alleged to have murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Botha said he was only informed of the reinstatement of the charges by a senior ranking officer last night.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with Mr Pistorius,” Botha told The Star on Thursday morning.
He said as of 11am Thursday no decision had been made regarding his involvement in the case.
“We are still discussing that,” said the National Prosecuting Authority’s regional spokesman Medupe Simasiku.
“This is not going to affect our case in any way,” he said.
Magistrate Desmond Nair halted court proceedings and called for Botha to be brought to court so he could question him.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court that he was caught unawares when reports surfaced that the investigator was himself charged with attempted murder.
“We didn't know,” said Nel.
He continued: “We have heard that he will appear in May.”
Nair asked about the incident.
Nel said it happened in December 2011 and that the matter was on the court roll until March 2012. It was then withdrawn, but was later reinstated.
Nel said Botha was in the building and would be fetched.
When Botha was back in the witness box, Nair took him through a summary of the initial evidence collected after Steenkamp was shot last Thursday.
Earlier police dismissed speculation that Botha had been taken off the Pistorius case but said no decision had been made.
“That’s news to me,” said police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila.
The NPA said they did not know about Botha’s charges before he testified.
“We were not aware of this, we do not do checks on investigating officers, the police do that,” said Simasiku.
Botha dismissed claims that he and the two officers he was with at the time of the alleged shooting were off duty and drunk. He said no blood was taken from them. “We were on duty, we were working on a murder case,” he said.
Botha said the taxi, which had blacked-out windows, had tried to run them off the road while they were on the murder case. “We tried to pursue it, flashed our lights and showed our identification out the window,” he said.
He said they pursued the taxi before he fired a single shot at it in an attempt to stop it.
Although he and the other two officers are from Pretoria policing precincts, the alleged shooting happened in Mpumalanga. Malila said reports were that the officers were off duty but driving a police vehicle.
“It is alleged that they fired shots at the minibus and were subsequently arrested,” he said.
The other officers were named as Lawrence Nicolas and Adriaan Bester.
The seven attempted murder charges relate to the number of people in the taxi when it was shot at.
Malila said after the officers’ third court appearance at KwaMhlanga Magistrate’s Court, the case was provisionally withdrawn, but police and Botha were informed that it had been reinstated last night.
Botha’s next court date is not yet known, though it will most likely be “sometime in May”.
The Star, IOL