Botha replaced as investigating officer; Pistorius' bail hearing adjourned
Zeenews Sports Bureau
Pretoria: The intriguing case of Oscar Pistorius has moved into its fourth day as his bail hearing continues. You can read the updates from Day 3 of the hearing from the proceedings in the courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa by scrolling down.
Meanwhile, Zeenews' Senior Sports Writer, the critical-eyed Suyash Srivastava, has his say on the case, giving his logically-backed opinion on the Pistorius case:
Once the hearing process was closed, National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said that they have decided to replace Hilton Botha as the investigating officer with a lieutenant general, the "most senior detective" in the South African police service. A shocking revelation was made before the proceedings started on Day 3, that said the investigating officer was himself facing a charge of attempted murder.
The mystery remains unsolved. Barry Roux who dismantled the claims presented by investigating officer Hilton Botha on Day 2 began the proceedings by asking the magistrate that Pistorius shouldn’t be charged with premeditated murder as the evidence doesn’t show that it was premeditated.
But the prosecution said that even on his own version of events, Pistorius intentionally killed the burglar as he fired four times, that too without a warning, which means he fired with the intent to kill someone. Nel debated over another point saying that two cell phones, one of Pistorius and the other of Reeva were found on the mat, next to the shower which means they were having an argument there in the bathroom.
The magistrate Desmond Nair on the other hand said that there was a possibility that Pistorius might try to influence the witnesses in case if he is left on bail. He also asked Roux whether he thought denying bail to the Paalympian start would lead to outrage in the community to which Roux replied that there was a possibility.
# The court is adjourned until 10am local time tomorrow morning (8am GMT).
# Nel stresses over the point that Oscar Pistorius is bound to be convicted at least of murder with indirect intent.
# Nel reminds everybody in the court that the statements given by the witnesses were taken under oath.
# Nel says since Pistorius shot four times, it was done with the intent to kill someone.
# Nel says Pistorius fired to 'kill' the intruder and not hurt him. Nel adds that even in his own version, Pistorius fired to kill.
# Nel further says that come what may, firing without an indication shows that Pistorius' claim of feeling vulnerable is totally improbable.
# Nel says the Pistorius had the intentions of getting himself armed and he created vulnerability for himself by getting into the bathroom. And thus there was no question of self-defence.
# Nel says Pistorius' version is improbable as in spite of feeling vulnerable, he didn't wake Steenkamp.
# Nel is now talking about the basic debate where he says how come Pistorius alone managed to presume the burglar and didn't confirm about it with his girlfriend. And even when he pulled out his gun, why didn't he ask Reeva if she was safe as she was sleeping on the same bed.
# Nel says that the accused has reported death threats and violent burglary in the past but he never formally complained which makes him think it all was said for 'the dramatic effect.'
# Nel adds that Pistorius says he won't run away from South Africa because he is a renowned athlete, but does an athlete of his popularity says things like, "I'll break your legs." and the foul language he used once.
# Nel says that Pistorius is under the impression that he has done "nothing wrong" which means he doesn't understand the seriousness of the crime which he is a reason for his flight risk.
# Nel then says that even if it was a premeditated murder, remorse might have struck him immediately even after Reeva was dead.
# Nel makes another revelation where he says that two mobile phones were found on the carpet in front of the shower. He questions how did Pistorius manage to get them on the mat.
# Nel further says, "No court will ever accept that the applicant acted in self-defence."
# Hearing resumes as prosecution lawyer Nel says that the fact that Pistorius is a renowned athlete isn't an example of exceptional circumstances.
# The hearing has been adjourned for 10 minutes.
# Nair asks Roux whether he thinks denying bail to Pistorius would lead to outrage in the community. Roux says he isn't sure and there might be a shock if that happens.
# Roux says that incident shouldn't be a reason to deny Pistorius bail.
# The magistrate further speaks about an evidence that Pistorius tried to get somebody else to take the blame for the incident with the gun in the restaurant.
# Nair comes up with a few questions now. He says in case if Pistorius is granted bail, he might try to influence the witnesses.
# The hearing was adjourned for a few minutes due to 'some kind of threat outside'.
# Roux reiterates that it wasn’t a premeditated murder as both Pistorius and Reeva were in love with each other. Hearing this, Pistorius once again sobs and is comforted by his brother.
# Pistorius had remained calm but indrawn all through the session but he slumps forward now, overcome by emotions. The unstoppable Roux, meanwhile, surges onward, re-stating that Botha's statement was "extremely poor and patently designed to bolster the state's case."
# Roux adds that while the prosecution's case talks about 'possibility', the defence's case rests on 'probability'. He also comes back to Botha, saying that he was not a credible witness, breaking into his evidence once again. It was precisely this strong 'breaking of points' that had given the defence such a strong position at the end of yesterday's proceedings.
# The debate returns to the witness. Nair asks if it might not have been 'possible' that a heated argument be heard 300m away with the balcony open. Roux says the evidence was vague, with some argument heard and two sets of 3 shots reported, while it has been established that there were 4 shots fired. He questions the strength of this evidence.
# Nair says he'll deal with Botha's credibility later as Roux questions his version yet again.
# Nair prods on, asking if it might not be possible that the stress and situation may have led her to empty her bladder because of the trauma. Roux admits that it is a possibility but adds that there are lots of possible versions, but there's nothing substantial that can negate his client's version.
# Nair asks if it couldn't be possible that Reeva had emptied her bladder an hour earlier to which the defence lawyer says "no", since there was no urine in her bladder at all.
# All in all, says Roux, Pistorius' version of the events is entirely plausible and perhaps more so than the prosecution's. Nair then interjects, asking if it might not have been natural for Reeva to open the door and ask what was going on. Roux rebutts that suggestion: "Reeva pronounce herself in the face of imminent danger? It doesn't make sense!"
# Roux has really laid it into Investigating Officer Botha, pretty much saying he was unfit to give evidence on the matter, referencing the 'bullet trajectory' mentioning that the officer isn't a ballistics expert.
# Roux adds that a few of the prosecution's so-called evidences are nothing more than mere "speculations" and "desperate attempts".
# As for the angle at which the bullets were shot, Roux reminds us that the defendant's version also adequately explains the occurence, a fact that even Botha was forced to concede yesterday.
# Roux gets to the supposed witness who heard the couple arguing, stressing that the distance has ben debated, with Botha first claiming it was 600m, then changing it to 300m before settling for a more inconclusive answer betraying his uncertainty on the issue. Furthermore, the witness didn't categorically identify them as the voices heard.
# As for the burglar locking himself in, Roux claims that nothing proves Pistorius knew the door was locked. He just believed that there was a burglar behind the door which was closed, not necessarily locked. He's going through each point comprehensively here.
# He also claims that the defendant took positive steps to save Reeva's life by taking her downstairs.
# He now brings up the cricket bat, stating that even Botha admitted that it was used to bring Reeva out of the bathroom. He also used Botha's admission on the matter that Reeva would, in all natural circumstances, lock herself in the bathroom when hearing of an intruder.
# Roux talks about recent crime rate in South Africa, attempting to establish that Pistorius' fear of crime that led him to take such drastic actions was rational, if not justified.
# Post lunch, Barry Roux continues his closing arguments, summing up the case's points. Meanwhile, if you're confused about who's who, scroll to the bottom to find a neat little box that helps you out with the 'dramatis personnae'.
# A BBC journalist caught up with Roux during the break and he believes the bail verdict may only be delivered tomorrow, saying ”We started too late”.
# And with that, the court is adjourned for half an hour. Roux has torn each point apart and it looks like the bail hearing may well go in the Blade Runner's favour.
# Roux rounds off by saying that Bothat had been "extremely selective" in choosing his evidence and seemed all set to "bolster the state's case".
# Roux going through every point now. He first points to the fact that Reeva's bladder was empty at 3am to show that she did go to the toilet to relieve herself and no evidence points to the prosecution's claim that she was hiding from Oscar. He also stresses that if Pistorius wanted to kill Reeva, he could've shot her in bed and needn't have shot her in the bathroom.
# A confident Roux states that "the preamble to the charge sheet patently lacks substance", again criticising the police for levelling half-backed charges that could not be substantiated.
# Roux claims that the very fact that Pistorius and Reeva spent that night together shows a loving relationship, and doesn't foretell of any issues that prove premeditated murder. He also adds that the prosecution have tried to show that it's murder all this while whereas the charge is of 'premeditated' murder.
# Since it's a charge of 'premeditated murder', exceptional circumstances are needed to grant Pistorius bail, and Roux is going about proving just that, stating that the prosecution's case is weak and doesn't even prove murder. He's now using case-law to back his point.
# Roux argues that the State wanted a Schedule 6 (Premeditated Murder charge) because it's tougher to get bail in such circumstances. He adds that Botha's statement was poor and that Schedule 6 shouldn't be considered here.
He rounds off with: "The poor quality of the evidence presented by chief investigating officer Botha exposed disastrous shortcomings in the state's case."
# Roux, confidently, delivers his right hook, saying that evidence, thus far, doesn't prove that this was 'premeditated' murder. In fact, he goes on, "the evidence does not even show that the applicant committed a murder."
# Roux says Investigating Officer Botha's testimony showed that he agreed the affidavit "negated any motive for killing Reeva" and that evidence pointed to the fact that the defendant and the deceased shared a "loving relationship". He adds that the corroboration to Pistorius' version of the events came, ironically enough, from Botha itself.
# With lack of eyewitness reports, Roux says he will concentrate on forensic evidence. He adds that this seems to be in line with Pistorius' statement. He has begun theatrically, and strongly.
# Silent tears streaming down Pistorius' cheeks as he stands, head bent low. He wipes his nose. Barry Roux, so brilliant yesterday, is now up for his arguments. Even the magistrate lauds Roux on his "performance" yesterday.
# Botha, a little relieved, is excused as the proceedings plod on. No questions about the charges levelled against him were put forward by the defence.
# The counter-claim, from Nel, is that he doesn't own any property there; the house is on loan to him where he stays for four months, which means he does have access to it. He translates from the Afrikaans in the magazine: "'I spend 4 months a year in SA, have house in Italy and spend 4 months a year there, its quiet and tranquil."
# Roux re-affirms that "He does not own any property abroad, not in Italy, not elsewhere." This is a crucial part as Nel had yesterday argued that Pistorius could be a flight-risk basing it on the evidence that he had a house in Italy.
# Nel now brings out an issue of an Afrikaan magazine, Sarie, where Oscar chats with his sister about his house in Italy, a fact that the defence had yesterday refuted.
# Botha is being asked about the previous assault allegations against the Blade Runner, which were dropped. Nair then moves on to ask Botha whether he's acquired Reeva's and Pistorius' phone records, to which the Investigating Officer replies that while he did try, he hasn't gotten them yet. The magistrate underlines the fact that if more urgency had been shown, critical evidence could have been uncovered which would have helped them in the case.
# Court is back in session as Nair returns. Botha, looking nervous, stands in the witness box, biting his lip. Nair asks if Botha would've been more comfortable giving testimony in Afrikaans. He admits that it would've been better in some parts, but prefers to continue in English.
# The mystery woman who temporarily interrupted the court proceedings this morning says, in her application, that Pistorius acted unlike his natural character and was "mentally insane" when he shot his girlfriend.
# The magistrate is still not back in the courtroom. Nike, meanwhile, has confirmed that it has suspended its contract with the Blade Runner.
# Botha will be brought to the courtroom as prosecution lawyer Nel displays his wry sense of humour: "there goes my case!"
# The court has been adjourned for 15 minutes to bring in Botha and re-start the proceedings.
# Prosecution lawyer Nel begins by putting some points across. The first is about Hilton Botha. Nel claims that their team didn't know that Botha would be facing 7 charges of attempted murder when they brought him in as a witness. The magistrate asks where Investigating Officer Botha is, since he isn't in the courtroom and Nel assures him that he's in the court but didn't want to appear today. But the magistrate asks for him to be brought to the courtroom, in spite of the prosecution's request to the contrary.
# Dramatic as this case has been, we now have an as-yet unidentified woman who's stood up and, quoting the constitution, described a motion she's brought forward, stating that the proceedings be held in chambers, considering the mental state of the defendant. The magistrate denies that it is in interest of justice and rules that this isn't in keeping with court procedure. The woman promptly grabs her handbag and leaves the courtroom. Strange interjection there!
# Magistrate Desmon Nair walks in and the final arguments are about to start. Pistorius enters, wearing a black suit and dark tie, with his hands folded in front. The prosecutor Nel is biting his nails and looking nervous, as there's a growing feeling that Pistorius willbe granted bail today.
# Oscar Pistorius is in the court room as the proceedings get underway. This should be the final day for the bail hearing. The momentum, if there's such a thing in matters like these, lies with the defence right now.
# Now South Africa's Jacaranda FM are refuting earlier claims that Botha has been dropped from the investigation, quoting Col N Malila who reportedly said: "We have never said that we have decided to remove Hilton Botha from the investigative team."
But they also report him having added that "We made a decision to Bolster the investigative team on Monday afternoon." This would lend credence to claims that "a provincial task team has been brought in to bolster" the investigating team.
# The day's proceedings should get underway within 15 minutes, but there's already been quite a sensation with the developments surrounding investigating officer Hilton Botha, who's tesimony was acutely probed and finally torn apart by defence lawyer Barry Roux. Botha has been charged with 7 counts of attempted murder as criminal charges have been revived on those fronts. Latest developments suggest that, consequently, he has been dropped from the case, but confirmation is still awaited.
In a feisty second day fraught with drama and arguments, the defence lawyer Barry Roux punched holes into investigating officer Hilton Botha’s statement.
The hearing is due to begin at 11am on Thursday and will be for argument by state and defence to determine whether Pistorius will be granted bail or not. The prosecution maintains that Pistorius committed ‘premeditated murder’ and is a flight-risk and therefore should not be granted bail. But the Blade Runner’s lawyer’s prodding arguments and cutting questions led the magistrate to question the strength of evidence the police possesses to back their case.
The dramatic turn of events on Wednesday, which carried arguments usually reserved for a full-blown trial, led Magistrate Desmond Nair to extending the bail-hearing to a third, and hopefully final, day. The Paralympic hero remained in custody again at the Brooklyn police station holding cells on Wednesday night, making it his seventh day in police cells since he was arrested Feb 14.
For a quick round-up on all that’s happened at the bail hearing so far, check out our updates from the first two days:
In case you’re a bit behind the ball and want to catch up on what exactly is going on, here’s our coverage of the Oscar Pistorius case so far:
Oscar Pistorius has been charged with ‘premeditated murder’ for shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of February 14, 2013. The Paralympian, who became the first double amputee to participate in the Olympic Games in London 2012, is being held in a Brooklyn police station until a decision is reached on his bail.
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