7:55 AM PT -- Botha is out. Officials in South Africa have appointed a NEW lead investigator in Oscar Pistorius' case.
The Oscar Pistorius case took a dramatic turn Thursday with shades of the O.J. Simpson case ... with a shocking revelation -- the lead investigator is facing attempted murder charges.
Detective Hilton Botha -- who laid out the prosecution's case earlier in the week -- allegedly shot at a minibus in 2011 and criminal charges were filed but dropped due to a lack of evidence. But then -- 10 days before Reeva Steenkamp was killed -- authorities found new evidence and reinstated the attempted murder charges.
Now the South African prosecutor's association is urging that Botha be booted from the Pistorius case.
Botha -- who is turning out to be the Mark Fuhrman of the case (if you're under 30, Google it) -- did a lousy job under cross-examination by Pistorius' lawyers and that could create problems for the prosecution.
Meanwhile -- the judge asked Pistorius' lawyer a bizarre question which has shades of celebrity justice -- "Do you think there will be some level of shock if the accused is released [on bail]?" The defense fired back, "I think there will be a level of shock in this country if he is not released."
2/20/2013 6:00 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
When Oscar Pistorius gunned down girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, she began screaming -- presumably in pain and horror -- and he continued shooting ... this according to a prosecution witness.
As the bail hearing resumed Wednesday, prosecutors revealed a statement from a witness who claims he heard gunshots, went to his balcony and saw the light was on. He then heard a female screaming two or three times ... then more gunshots.
If true ... it's devastating for Pistorius, who claims the room was pitch black when he began firing, never realizing he was shooting at his girlfriend. If the lights were on and he heard Steenkamp's screams but kept on shooting -- it blows his intruder defense sky high.
Prosecutors also say they have a witness who says there was "non-stop talking like fighting" between 2 and 3 AM ... shortly before the shooting. Pistorius claims there was no argument before the killing.
And there's this ... the first officer to arrive at the scene says when he got there, a lawyer and Pistorius' brother were already present.
An officer testified the bullets were "fired down," which contradicts Pistorius' story that he was not wearing his prosthetic legs when he began shooting.
One thing in Pistorius' favor -- the chief investigating officer was grilled like a cheeseburger on cross-examination and he reportedly did not do a very good job.
I Didn't Mean to Kill Her ...
2/19/2013 6:15 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius swore in court today that he believes he was shooting at an intruder when he gunned down girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp ... but prosecutors scoffed, saying he was hell-bent on killing her.
Pistorius' lawyer read his client's sworn affidavit to the judge, explaining that he believed an intruder was in his house on Valentine's Day and he felt vulnerable because he was in bed without his prosthetic legs ... and that's why he pumped a round of bullets into the bathroom door.
The prosecutor saw it differently ... he said Pistorius' motive was simple -- "I want to kill." Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said the Olympian took the time to put his prosthetic legs on, walk 23 feet, and then he began shooting.
Pistorius claims he had no idea he was shooting at Steenkamp until he realized she was not in his bed. He said, "It filled me with horror and fear."
The prosecutors scoffed, saying Pistorius and Steenkamp had just finished a shouting match when he fired 4 shots into the bathroom, hitting Steenkamp 3 times.
A "Reckless" Disaster
Waiting to Happen, Says Paralympian
2/19/2013 12:10 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius was a ticking time bomb and a disgrace to Paralympians everywhere -- even before he was charged with murdering his girlfriend -- this according to a U.S. Paralympic gold medalist who says he's "not surprised" by the tragedy.
Todd Schaffhauser tells TMZ he "warned many of the prosthetic sponsors about Oscar after reading some of the first incidents of his reckless behavior" on and off the track.
Todd -- who won gold as a sprinter in the '88 Paralympics (below) -- was referring to allegations Pistorius wrecked a speedboat, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed a car ... and also to the fact he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a different girlfriend in '09.
Although Todd's never met Pistorius -- he adds, "Oscar truly showed the only disabled person he was looking out for was Oscar" ... when he lost the gold medal at the London Paralympics, and accused the winner of cheating.
"I never saw him as a true ambassador of the sport. True ambassadors don't behave as he has in the past.”
As for Pistorius' pending murder trial ... Todd says, regardless of the outcome -- "I am glad he is hopefully out of the sport forever and some of the true upcoming ambassadors get the attention they deserve.”
Bloody Cricket Bat
Found at Murder Scene
2/17/2013 8:45 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
A blood-spattered cricket bat is now the center of the investigation into the shooting death of Oscar Pistorius' model girlfriend ... this according to a newspaper in South Africa.
Cops are unsure if the bat was used by Reeva Steenkamp in self-defense or if Pistorius used it in his attack -- either directly hitting Steenkamp with it or in an effort to break down a door.
The City Press, a paper in South Africa, says that Steenkamp's skull was crushed in addition to the gunshot wounds. The City Press quotes a source as saying, "There was lots of blood on the bat. Forensic tests will show whose blood it was."
It was also reported Sunday that Pistorius' first call following the shooting was not to police, but rather his friend, Justin Divaris, who told The Mirror, "I said to him, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t understand you?’ He then repeated himself, ‘There has been a terrible accident, I shot Reeva.'"
Pistorius is due back in court next week.
Oscar Pistorius' GF
Set to Give 'Abuse' Speech
... Day She Was Killed
2/16/2013 12:53 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius' GF Reeva Steenkamp was supposed to give a speech on the hardships of abusive relationships on Feb. 14th -- the same day she was shot dead in her boyfriend's home.
Reeva was set to speak to a group of teenagers at Sandown High School in South Africa ... to talk about her own experience suffered at the hands of a previous boyfriend -- not Oscar -- this according to the Daily Telegraph.
In the notes for her speech, the former model reportedly urged the school kids to "be brave, always see the positive" and "make your voice heard."
The Olympian is now charged with her murder.
to Handi-Capable Jail
2/15/2013 7:38 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Accused girlfriend murderer Oscar Pistorius has been transferred into a NEW JAIL ... after officials in South Africa decided his old cell wasn't suitable for the double amputee's "special needs" ... TMZ has learned.
We spoke to a rep for the South African Police Department handling Oscar's living situation ... who told us, "Oscar has now been moved from the Boschkop Jail to the Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria due to his handicap needs."
The rep explains, "The normal cell he was in was not suitable for Oscar so he was moved in order to accommodate to his special needs."
We're also told Oscar will no longer be allowed to accept visitors -- or home-cooked meals -- as he did during his first night in jail. Cops say Pistorius will only be allowed to meet with his legal team.
Officials say Pistorius is now "resting comfortably" in his new cell ... and will be checked on every 30 minutes.
Pistorius has been accused of shooting his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp inside of his South Africa mansion. Cops say he is the only suspect in the case.
Breaks Down Crying in Court
2/15/2013 5:51 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius wept openly in court today in South Africa as a judge charged him with the Valentine's Day murder of his model girlfriend.
Pistorius -- a double amputee track star who competed in last summer's Olympics -- held his hands over his face and sobbed as the prosecution said it would bring a charge of "premeditated murder."
The bail hearing was postponed at the request of both the prosecution and the defense and the case was adjourned until Tuesday. Pistorius will remain in custody until then.
Pistorius' lawyer did not squarely say his client did not shoot GF Reeva Steenkamp, saying, "The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms."
It appears the defense will center around perceived self-defense -- believing Steenkamp was an intruder. In fact, on November 27 -- 3 months before Steenkamp was shot -- Pistorius went on twitter to talk about shooting an intruder: "Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry! waa."
Jenna Edkins, who claims to have been an on-again off-again girlfriend of Pistorius' over the last 5 years, tweeted, "NOT ONCE has he EVER lifted a finger to me or made me fear for my life."
Steenkamp was a 26-year-old model who was about to make her reality television debut.
Oscar Pistorius' Blade Legs
NOT Considered Weapons
2/14/2013 5:00 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Olympian Oscar Pistorius' carbon fiber blade legs could EASILY be used as a weapon behind bars -- but a rep for the South African prison where he's locked up tells TMZ, officials have decided not to confiscate the prosthetics.
The rep tells TMZ, Pistorius will be allowed to keep his legs ... at least until he faces a judge in a few hours -- at which point that decision might change.
Pistorius stands accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
We're told SA prison officials typically confiscate any item that can be used as a weapon -- shivs, clubs, anything that can be filed down to a point (including hard plastics) -- but this is a special circumstance.
We called a few jails on this side of the Atlantic for good measure ... and we were told Pistorius would be lucky to keep his legs behind bars, especially if he were placed in gen pop ... where another inmate could potentially use Pistorius' legs to cause real damage.
Competitive advantage: Pistorius.
Oscar Pistorius' Family
Delivers Home-Cooked Meal to Prison
2/14/2013 10:45 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius is living it up behind bars -- a rep for the South African prison where he's locked up tells TMZ, Oscar's family just delivered the Olympian a home-cooked meal and some blankets to make his stay more comfy.
According to the rep, the family dropped off the care package roughly an hour ago. They also brought a pillow from home for him to sleep on.
The rep insists the care package is NOT considered special treatment -- every inmate is allowed to receive similar packages from family and friends.
We're told Oscar's family left shortly after dropping off the goods, and he's currently resting comfortably in his cell.
Oscar -- who stands accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp -- is set to appear before a judge tomorrow.
Arrested in 2009
For Assaulting a Woman
2/14/2013 9:20 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Olympian Oscar Pistorius -- who now stands accused of murdering his girlfriend -- was arrested in 2009 for allegedly assaulting a female friend ... TMZ has learned.
Boschkop police in South Africa tell TMZ ... Pistorius spent 24 hours in jail following his 2009 arrest ... before the alleged victim decided to drop the charges.
Pistorius is currently being held at a nearby Pretoria Prison.
According to Boschkop police, Oscar and his girlfriend Reeva NEVER had any prior incidents ... at least where cops were called.
Pistorius is set to appear before a judge tomorrow.
Olympic 'Blade Runner'
IN GF's MURDER
2/14/2013 7:45 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian without legs who became famous in 2012, has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend.
Pistorius -- the paralympian known as Blade Runner -- is accused of shooting 30-year-old Reeva Steenkamp in the hand and head -- allegedly with a 9 mm pistol found at the scene.
Pistorius, 26, had reportedly been dating Steenkamp for a few months. She was a law graduate and an aspiring model.
Steenkamp was killed inside Pistorius' home in Pretoria, South Africa. There are reports there have been "previous incidents" between the two at the home.
Pistorius -- considered a national hero in South Africa -- was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics.
Creepy Vibes in L.A.
2/14/2013 6:30 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
We can't quite put our finger on it ... but there was something strange about our encounter with "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius in Los Angeles back in October ... something ... creepy.
On the surface, he was totally polite with our camera guy as he left dinner at Mercato di Vetro with a friend ... answering questions about his running style.
Notably NOT present during the run-in -- Reeva Steenkamp ... who was gunned down in Oscar's South Africa home early Thursday morning. It's unclear if they were dating at the time.
Oscar is the only suspect in her death.