Pretoria: In a surprising turn of events, the lead detective in athlete Oscar Pistorius' murder case is himself facing attempted murder charges for opening fire on a minibus containing seven people in 2011, South African police said on Thursday. He is likely to be dropped from the case after it emerged he is facing seven attempted murder charges himself.
Hilton Botha, who took the stand against Pistorius at the Paralympic and Olympic track star's bail hearing this week, is due to appear in court in May, police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said.
"Botha and two other policemen allegedly tried to stop a mini bus taxi with seven people. They fired shots," Malila said.
The charges were provisionally withdrawn, but were reinstated on Wednesday - at the behest of the state prosecutor - after Botha had taken the stand against Pistorius in Pretoria's main magistrates court, he added.
"We were informed yesterday that the charges will be re-instated," Malila said. "At this stage there are no plans to take him off the Pistorius case."
It was unclear why the charges were reinstated against Botha, or how the latest twist in Pistorius' sensational four-day bail hearing will affect the athlete's chances of securing release from custody pending his main trial.
Pistorius - a double amputee dubbed "Blade Runner" because of his carbon fibre racing blades - faces life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder over the shooting of his girlfriend.
South African media said that since the charges were not hanging over Botha when he was in the witness stand, the revelations about attempted murder charges were unlikely to mean his testimony would have to be withdrawn.
The new twist caps an ignominious 24 hours for South Africa's prosecution service. Under cross-examination at the bail hearing on Wednesday,
Botha was accused of contaminating the crime scene in Pistorius' house and had to backtrack on details such as the distance of witnesses from the athlete's home.
Lead defence counsel Barry Roux accused the police of oversights and slip-ups in their initial investigation. The bail hearing for Pistorius, 26, is due to restart at 0900 GMT. He is accused of shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 29, at his home in the early hours of Thursday last week - Valentine's Day.
(With inputs from Reuters)