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article imageTop cop in 'Blade Runner' Pistorius case quits the force

By Anne Sewell     Mar 8, 2013 in World
Pretoria - Hilton Botha, top cop in the investigation of Oscar Pistorius, the athletics star facing charges for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, has left the police force. Botha himself is under investigation for attempted murder.
Warrant Officer Hilton Botha was the first officer on the scene of the Valentine's Day shooting of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius in his Pretoria, South Africa home.
However, when it emerged that Botha himself is facing attempted murder charges, the detective was pulled off the investigation. He was then replaced by a senior investigator, police Lt. Gen. Vinesh Moonoo.
On top of this, Botha was criticized for mixing up key facts about the investigation at Pistorius' bail hearing. There are also claims that Botha walked through the crime scene without wearing protective shoe covers, potentially contaminating the area. He gave conflicting estimates of the distance of the house of a potential witness. A judge at the bail hearing criticized Botha for failing to secure data from cellular telephones found at the scene of the shooting.
Now, on Thursday, a police spokesman has said that Botha has resigned from the police force.
Police spokesman, Brigadier Neville Malila told Reuters, "He handed in his resignation yesterday and it was accepted with immediate effect."
"It was his initiative. He applied for the resignation and the exit interviews were conducted with him," he said. "He still maintained that he wanted to leave the service and we honored his wish."
"We are not going into the details," he added.
In 2011, the detective, who had 24 years experience on the force, was pursuing a man accused of murdering a woman and disposing of her dismembered body down a drain. According to South African media, during this pursuit, Botha was accused of firing on a minibus taxi full of passengers. While the charges were withdrawn, they were apparently reinstated on February 4, just ten days before the Steenkamp shooting incident.
The South African police force regularly comes under fire for failing to reduce one of the highest crime rates in the world, the perception that the force is poorly trained and also for incidents of police brutality. As reported on Digital Journal, eight police officers were arrested last week for tying a Mozambican taxi driver to the back of a police vehicle and dragging him to the police station, where he later died from his injuries.
Add to this the fact that Botha, with shooting charges against him, was investigating the Pistorius case has further embarrassed the South African police.
Botha spoke to the media on Thursday night and spoke of the intense and "unnecessary" pressure he had been under.
"Right from the beginning they [police management] knew how serious and high-profile this case was. They could have helped a lot earlier than they did. Having a senior general on the case would have seen things being done and reports completed a lot sooner."
When speaking of the start of the Pistorius investigation, Botha said that if he had to do it all over again, he would proceed in the same way.
"Everything I did was above board, in line with best international policing practices. The few [people] that were there on the scene in the early hours of the investigation and for the following four days were good. We worked with what we had and did the best we could."
Speaking of the bail hearing where he was criticized for mixing up key facts, Botha said, "A bail application is like a poker game. You cannot show all your cards."
''It was meant to be a bail hearing, not a trial within a trial. There are certain things that happened and what was said in court did not happen."
"If it was handled like a proper bail application, there would not have been so many questions. At bail applications you do not have all the information such as forensics. I did not have all the information.''
"I don't need this [pressure] in my life. If I can get out of it I am going to."
Botha starts his new job as a loss-control manager and head of security at a Pretoria company on Monday.
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