Oscar sleuth quits cops

2013-03-08 00:00

THE detective whose evidence was torn apart on the witness stand during Oscar Pistorius’s bail application has quit the police service.

Warrant Officer Hilton Botha (43) said yesterday that “50% of the reason is that I can’t send my son to university next year on a police salary”.

The other 50% is because he feels the “police dropped me”.

On Monday he begins a new job as loss manager for a construction company.

Botha, who charged Pistorius with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was replaced as investigating officer after testifying during the bail application.

His testimony was picked apart by Pistorius’s defence team.

In his ruling on bail, magistrate Desmond Nair referred to several errors and shortcomings in Botha’s testimony, as well as to concessions he was forced to make under cross-examination.

The issues included cellphone information that wasn’t verified; the fact that Botha entered the crime scene without covers on his shoes; that the defence expert found a bullet in the toilet that was missed by police; that Botha was uncertain of the distance between Pistorius’s house and that of a witness who claimed to have heard a row; and that Botha claimed to have found “testosterone” in the bedroom, which was in fact a herbal preparation.

The day after Botha testified, it also emerged that seven counts of attempted murder in connection with shooting at a taxi during a car chase had been reinstated a year after the case was provisionally withdrawn.

Police commissioner General Riah Phiyega said Botha would not be suspended over the shooting.

Yesterday, Botha said that “when the media turned its back, a departmental investigation was begun, a year and three months after the incident”.

Brigadier Neville Malila said: “He gave notice with immediate effect yesterday [Wednesday]. The reasons given are between himself and the organisation. It is a personal decision ultimately.”

Malila said Botha had been an investigator for many years.

“It is a lot of experience that we are losing, but it is his personal decision.”

Discussing that decision, Botha told sister paper Beeld: “I’ve been looking a long time for a better-paying job, because I can’t send my son to university on a police salary. After the Oscar saga, I started to look harder.”

Botha said he didn’t get the support and leadership he needed from the police while he was the investigating officer on the Pistorius case.

He said he was thrown in the deep end and then made the scapegoat when things started to go wrong during the bail hearing.

Even so, he would miss the police, Botha said.

He had been an officer for 24 years, 16 of them as a detective.

“I always loved detective work, tracking down suspects, seeing the case through and getting a guilty verdict.

“I never arrested someone without being certain they were guilty. I got a guilty verdict for every arrest,” he said.

“I always thought I’d be doing the job until I retired,” he said.

Botha said he had already handed in his firearm and uniforms, and would go to his office at the Boschkop police station near Pretoria for the last time this morning to finish paperwork and hand over his case dockets.

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