Pretoria - As the family of embattled Paralympian Oscar Pistorius breathed a sigh of relief that he “is now home”, questions have begun to emerge about detective Hilton Botha’s handling of Pistorius’s arrest in 2009, including the fact that the athlete’s name was never officially recorded.
Days after Botha was sensationally dropped as lead detective in the Reeva Steenkamp murder case, and with Pistorius out on R1 million bail, it has now emerged that although the famous sprinter spent a night in his local Boschkop police station two-and-a-half years ago for common assault, his name did not appear in the cell register.
He was arrested after a woman alleged he injured her when he slammed his front door in her face.
Pistorius was reported to have spent the night behind bars and was released some 17 hours later. However, Botha, who was (and still is) stationed at Boschkop and was handling the case, allegedly decided not to proceed with the matter and released Pistorius. No charges were ever brought.
It’s the latest twist in the drama which has garnered international attention, with the most up-to-date news from the Pistorius camp that they were having “a moment of relief under these otherwise very grave circumstances”.
Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said yesterday that although the family never imagined they would have to deal with such tragic events, “we are extremely grateful that Oscar is now home”.
Pistorius sounded dejected yesterday when he answered his uncle’s phone, saying only “Hello, this is Oscar speaking”. When a reporter from Weekend Argus sister title the Sunday Tribune identified himself, he refused to answer any questions, handing the phone to his uncle.
Arnold Pistorius insisted the family be afforded some privacy. “You people must follow the proper channels and deal with our public relations team,” he said.
The mudslinging appears, however, to have only just begun. It has now emerged, from those close to the 2009 incident involving Pistorius, that correct procedures were apparently not followed that night. Although Pistorius’s name did appear in the police’s occurrence book, it never appeared in the police cell register, which is required if one is detained.
When questioned about the 2009 matter in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday, Botha said, under oath, that he did not take the matter any further as he believed the athlete’s version of events that he had done no wrong, and that the woman in question had been under the influence of alcohol.
However, when he was questioned again a day later he told chief magistrate Desmond Nair that Pistorius had slammed the door in the young woman’s face, causing her injury as a result.
Police commissioner Riya Piyega decided to remove Botha from the high-profile case on Thursday when it emerged that he was facing seven counts of attempted murder.
Meanwhile, Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said yesterday that the family had to come to terms with the “sad reality” of Steenkamp’s death, and Pistorius’s part in it: “As a family it drew us closer together, supporting and encouraging each other, praying for Oscar whom we love and who remains our son, brother and nephew.”
He added that they were acutely aware of the long road ahead, but said the family was certain they could prove that Pistorius never intended to harm Steenkamp.
Pistorius, he said, could “never
undo the pain and loss” to Steenkamp’s family.
However, suggesting they might not yet be ready to consider forgiveness, Steenkamp’s father Barry Steenkamp has been quoted as saying that Pistorius has to live with his conscience.
“It doesn’t matter how much money he has and how good his legal team is, he will have to live with his conscience if he allows his legal team to lie for him,” he warned, before adding that if Pistorius was indeed telling the truth, “then perhaps I can forgive him one day”.
But “if it didn’t happen the way he said it did”, Steenkamp said “he must suffer, and he will suffer… only he knows.”
June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, also appeared unready to accept the condolences of the Pistorius family.
According to reports, the Pistorius family sent bouquets and handwritten cards, to which June Steenkamp reportedly responded: “Yes, but what does it mean?”
The grieving mother said she was “cried empty”.
After eight nights in police custody and four days in court, Oscar was granted bail of R1 million on Friday.
Pistorius spent the first night outside a police cell surrounded by his family at his uncle’s plush Pretoria home.