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Lead Investigator Removed From Pistorius Murder Case


Investigating officer Hilton Botha, sits inside the court witness box during the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa, February 20, 2013.

Investigating officer Hilton Botha, sits inside the court witness box during the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa, February 20, 2013.

South African police detective Hilton Botha has been taken off the high-profile Oscar Pistorius murder case. Botha is facing his own charges for attempted murder along with two other police officers, for shooting at a mini-bus taxi in 2011.

News broke Thursday morning that the top investigator on the Oscar Pistorius case is facing seven counts of attempted murder in a case just reopened by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

South Africa's Eyewitness News broke the story that Hilton Botha is due to appear in court this May with two other police officers. It is alleged the officers, while drunk, had opened fire on a mini-bus taxi loaded with passengers.

The officers were in a state vehicle at the time. They were arrested in 2011.

Thursday afternoon, South Africa's police commissioner, Mangwashi 'Riah' Phiyega, announced that Botha - a 22-year veteran of the force - is being taken off the Pistorius case and that the police service's most experienced detective, Vinesh Moonoo, will be put on the case.

"I have decided to assign this very important matter, this very important investigation, under the leadership and stewardship of the divisional commissioner of detective services, Lieutenant General Moonoo. He is the most senior detective in the SAPS environment," said Phiyega.

Botha's case had been provisionally withdrawn, but was reinstated Wednesday. Botha, who was testifying in the Pistorius bail hearing Wednesday, did not know that fact during his testimony, Phiyega said.

"Only yesterday did we receive the feedback from the NPA. He wouldn't have been aware of that kind of outcome," said Phiyega.

During Botha's testimony on Wednesday, he admitted to the court that the evidence in the case stood up to Pistorius' own version of events.

While he's off the Pistorius case now, he hasn't been fired.

"We do not suspend without charges," said Phiyega. "Investigating Officer Botha is still a member of SAPS, he's still working, and I've said in my attestation, in my report, that we are pursuing both matters departmentally and supporting the NPA criminal process. The departmental matter will then come to a point where after investigation we can decide whether there are charges or no charges to be laid. At this point in time, there are no charges. At this point in time he is not suspended."

Pistorius' bail hearing will continue Friday. A ruling on whether he'll be released is expected soon. Pistorius, a South African Olympian known as the "blade runner" for his high-tech artificial legs, is charged by police with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He insists he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar when he shot her at his home.
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