In a bizarre development in the Oscar Pistorius investigation, the top police detective on the case was replaced Thursday after it was revealed he also is facing charges of attempted murder – connected to an incident 18 months ago in which he fired shots at a minivan.
In October 2011, Hilton Botha and two other officers tried to stop a van they believed was carrying a murder suspect by shooting at it, the New York Times reports. The van was carrying seven people.
Botha was charged with attempted murder. The charges were later dropped, but were reinstated this week – which police called a complete coincidence.
“We were informed yesterday that the charges will be reinstated,” Police Brig. Neville Malila said. “At this stage, there are no plans to take him off the Pistorius case.”
But that soon changed. National police commissioner Riah Phiyega said Detective Botha would be replaced by Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo, whom she described as the country s “top detective,” the Associated Press reported
A spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority said the decision to reinstate the charges happened on Feb. 4 – 10 days before Pistorius shot his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp, to death.
“It’s completely unrelated to this trial,” the spokesman said.
Botha denies accusations that he was drunk during the shooting, and claims he was firing at the van’s wheels to avoid injuries. He is due in court in May.
Botha has testified this week in the Pistorius bail hearing. The double-amputee Olympian, 26, who faces murder charges, claims he mistook Steenkamp for a home intruder.