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Police put top officer on Blade Runner case

Battling embarrassment in the glare of a global media spotlight, South African police named the nation's most senior detective to take over, as preliminary hearings to decide whether Oscar Pistorius can go free on bail were adjourned until today.

PRETORIA // South African police investigating Oscar Pistorius for murder pulled their lead detective off the case yesterday after it emerged he himself faces attempted murder charges for shooting at a minibus.

Battling embarrassment in the glare of a global media spotlight, they named the nation's most senior detective to take over, as preliminary hearings to decide whether the Olympic and Paralympic star can go free on bail were adjourned until today.

Hilton Botha, the initial lead investigator had already faced a torrid time over his evidence from defence counsel this week, and police commissioner Riah Phiyega said he might become distracted by the charges relating to the bus shooting in 2011.

"From this point forward, I will take over," Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo said. "It will not affect the court proceedings."

Charges against Warrant Office Botha over the taxi minibus shooting had been dropped but the National Prosecuting Authority said they were reinstated on Febyrary 4 - just 10 days before Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home.

"The decision to reinstate was taken on February 4, way before the issue of Pistorius came to light or the murder of Reeva was committed," NPA spokesman Medupe Simasiku said . "It's completely unrelated to this trial."

It is not clear whether the dismissal of Mr Botha would affect the athlete's chances of securing release from custody pending his trial. After a fourth day of bail hearings, the judge said the court would sit again on the matter today.

At the time of the shooting in 2011, Mr Botha was chasing a man accused of murdering a woman and disposing of her dismembered body down a drain, local media said.

Pistorius, who was born without bones in his lower legs and runs on carbon-fibre racing blades, faces life in prison if convicted of the premeditated murder of Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine's Day. He denies murder and his lawyers say he opened fire with a pistol at what he thought was a burglar.

Sportswear giant Nike froze its endorsement contract with Pistorius on Thursday saying the athlete should be "afforded due process".

 

Reuters