February 22, 2013

South Africa police replace top Pistorius investigator

The Associated Press

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Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius stands during his bail hearing at the magistrate court in Pretoria, South Africa on Thursday.

AP

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Former lead investigator Hilton Botha sits in the witness box during the bail hearing on Wednesday for Oscar Pistorius.

AP

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Pistorius' main sponsor, Nike, meanwhile, suspended its contract with the multiple Paralympic champion, following eyewear manufacturer Oakley's decision to suspend its sponsorship. Nike said in a statement on its website: "We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."

On Thursday, Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair asked the defense regarding Pistorius' bail application: "Do you think there will be some level of shock if the accused is released?"

Defense lawyer Roux responded: "I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released."

Prosecutor Nel suggested signs of remorse from Pistorius had nothing to do with whether he planned to kill his girlfriend.

"Even if you plan a murder, you plan a murder and shoot. If you fire the shot, you have remorse. Remorse might kick in immediately," Nel said.

As Nel summed up the prosecution's case opposing bail, Pistorius began to weep in the crowded courtroom, leading his brother, Carl Pistorius, to reach out and touch his back.

"He (Pistorius) wants to continue with his life like this never happened," Nel went on, prompting Pistorius, who was crying softly, to shake his head.

"The reason you fire four shots is to kill," Nel persisted.

Earlier Thursday, Nair questioned Botha over delays in processing records from phones found in Pistorius' house following the slaying.

"It seems to me like there was a lack of urgency," the magistrate said.

Botha is to appear in court in May to face seven counts of attempted murder in connection with the minibus shooting incident. He has been quoted in the South African media as denying allegations he was drunk at the time, saying he and the other officers were trying to stop the vehicle and didn't know there were people inside.

While Botha has been dropped from the Pistorius investigation, he has not been suspended from the police force, Phiyega said, and could still be called by defense lawyers at trial.

Pistorius, wearing the same gray suit, blue shirt and gray tie combination he has worn throughout the bail hearing, stood ramrod straight in the dock, then sat calmly looking at his hands.

Roux said an autopsy showed that Steenkamp's bladder was empty, suggesting she had gone to the bathroom to use the toilet, rather than fled there to escape an enraged Pistorius, as prosecutors contend.

"The known forensics is consistent" with Pistorius' statement, Roux said, asking that bail restrictions be eased for his client.

But the prosecutor said Pistorius hadn't given guarantees to the court that he wouldn't leave the country if he was facing a life sentence. Nel also stressed that Pistorius shouldn't be given special treatment.

"'I am Oscar Pistorius. I am a world-renowned athlete.' Is that a special circumstance? No," Nel said. "His version (of the killing) is improbable."

Nel said the court should focus on the "murder of the defenseless woman."

Botha testified Thursday that he investigated a 2009 complaint against Pistorius by a woman who said the athlete assaulted her. However, Pistorius did not hurt the woman, who in fact injured herself when she kicked a door at Pistorius' home, Botha said.

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