Police offer confused testimony in Pistorius case

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 10:38 am •  Published: February 20, 2013
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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The detective leading the police investigation into Oscar Pistorius' fatal shooting of his girlfriend offered confusing testimony Wednesday, at one point agreeing with the athlete's defense that officers had no evidence challenging the runner's claim he accidentally killed her.

Testimony by Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha of the South African Police Service left prosecutors rubbing their temples, only able to look down at their notes as he misjudged distances and acknowledged a forensics team left in the toilet bowl one of the bullet slugs fired at Reeva Steenkamp. However, Botha still poked holes in Pistorius' own account that he feared for his life and opened fire on Valentine's Day after mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder.

The second day of the bail hearing in a case that has riveted South Africa and much of the world appeared at first to go against the double-amputee runner, with prosecutors saying a witness can testify to hearing "non-stop talking, like shouting" between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. before the predawn shooting on Feb. 14. However, Botha later said under cross examination that the person who overheard the argument was in a house 600 meters (yards) away in Pistorius' gated community in the suburbs of South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Later, prosecutor Gerrie Nel questioned Botha again and the detective acknowledged the distance was much closer. But confusion reigned for much of his testimony, when at one point Botha said officers found syringes and steroids in Pistorius' bedroom. Nel quickly cut the officer off and said the drugs were actually testosterone.

Pistorius' lead defense lawyer, Barry Roux, asserted when questioning the detective — who has 16 years' experience as a detective and 24 years with the police — that it was not a banned substance and that police were trying to give the discovery a "negative connotation."

"It is an herbal remedy," Roux said. "It is not a steroid and it is not a banned substance."

The name of the drug, offered later in court by Roux, could not be immediately found in reference materials by The Associated Press. A spokesman for prosecutors later said it's too early to know what the substance is, as they don't yet have results of forensic testing on the material.

Pistorius, 26, said in an affidavit read in court Tuesday that he and his 29-year-old girlfriend had gone to bed and that when he awoke during the night he detected what he thought was an intruder in the bathroom. He testified that he grabbed his 9 mm pistol and fired into the door of a toilet enclosed in the bathroom, only to discover later to his horror that Steenkamp was there, mortally wounded.

Pistorius, the first Paralympian runner to compete at the Olympics, is charged with premeditated murder in the case.

The prosecution attempted to cement its argument that the couple had a shouting match, that Steenkamp fled and locked herself into the toilet stall of the bathroom and that Pistorius fired four shots through the door, hitting her with three bullets.

Botha said: "I believe that he knew that Reeva was in the bathroom and he shot four shots through the door."

But asked if the police found anything inconsistent with the version of events presented by Pistorius, Botha responded that they had not. He later said nothing contradicted the police's version either.

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