Life, etc

Pistorius bail hearing: Hilton Botha recalled to the stand

By Khadija Patel 21 February 2013

On Wednesday defence advocate Barry Roux’s cross-examination reduced Hilton Botha, the officer in charge of the Oscar Pistorius murder investigation, to a stammering wreck as he pointed out multiple examples of negligent police work at the scene and afterwards. Overnight it was revealed that Botha himself was facing seven charges of attempted murder. On Thursday Botha was recalled to the stand to answer magistrate Desmond Nair’s questions. By KHADIJA PATEL.

When the court adjourned for lunch on Thursday, advocate Barry Roux had begun to detail his final argument supporting an application for bail for murder accused Oscar Pistorius. But as Roux continues to make his case, denying that Pistorius is a flight risk or that he should be charged with murder at all, scrutiny has once more fallen on the investigating officer, Hilton Botha.

Botha was recalled to court on Thursday morning after crumbling under Roux’s cross-examination on Wednesday afternoon. Media reports on Thursday morning revealed that Botha was himself facing a charge of attempted murder.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel professed his ignorance of the charges. When Botha reappeared in court after a short adjournment, magistrate Desmond Nair appeared to be unperturbed by the media reports and did not question Botha about the possible impact the charges may have on Botha’s ability to investigate the case.

Nair began by asking Botha if, as an Afrikaans speaking person, he was comfortable testifying in court in English. “If you could give your testimony again, would you give it in Afrikaans?” Nair asked. Botha said certain parts of his testimony would have been more easily rendered in Afrikaans but he was still comfortable testifying in English and would continue doing so on Thursday.

The magistrate then probed Botha’s allegation that Pistorius had a propensity for violence. When Botha testified on Wednesday, he mentioned two conflicts in which Pistorius is alleged to have threatened to break the legs of people he had fallen out with. Nair required further clarity on this matter, particularly asking which of the two incidents involved former footballer Mark Batchelor.
But it was on the next point of Nair’s careful probing that Botha and the South African Police Services once more emerged negligent in their investigation.

Nair asked if Botha, as the investigating officer in the case, had requested the cellphone records of the victim, Reeva Steenkamp. Botha indicated that he had requested the records but had not yet received them. Nair then expressed his disbelief, arguing that over a week had passed since the incident. Botha was eventually forced to admit that a member of his team may have received the records but the records had not revealed anything of interest to the investigation. If the record had revealed anything of interest, Botha said, he would have been alerted to it.

As the bail hearing continues, the many rumours that have surrounded the case continue to be proven false. Botha’s testimony this morning was the latest evidence to refute rumours that Steenkamp had received a call or text message in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, sending Pistorius into a jealous, murderous rage.

Before closing arguments could begin, prosecutor Gerrie Nel revealed that Botha had call him on Wednesday night with the source of his claim that that Pistorius owned property in Italy. Botha directed Nel’s attention to the February 2012 edition of Sarie magazine that carried an interview with Pistorius. During his testimony Botha said he believed Pistorius was a flight risk because he had off shore accounts and a home in Italy. He claimed to have learned about the home in Italy through the media. Nel then proceeded to read extracts of the interview with Pistorius.

The hearing continues. DM

Photo by Greg Nicolson


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