Star athlete Oscar Pistorius is on trial for shooting his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, and it seems others close to the Olympian and his case are surrounded by death and mayhem as well.
Police have charged Pistorius’ brother Carl with culpable homicide, a charge similar to negligent manslaughter in the United States, for killing a woman on a motorcycle by running over her with his car.
The lead investigating officer for Pistorius’ murder case, Hilton Botha, was charged with attempted murder for opening fire on a minibus full of passengers in an allegedly drunken pursuit of a suspected murderer. Botha also resigned from the South African police force after giving conflicting testimony during Pistorius’ bail hearing.
And if Pistorius’ association with crime were not already bizarre enough, Pistorius’ aunt, Micki Pistorius, was a long-time criminal psychologist for a South African police department and is a renowned expert on serial killers and author of the book “Profiling Serial Killers and other crimes in South Africa.”
Pistorius’ brother’s Carl is fighting accusations that he was under the influence of alcohol and was criminally negligent when he struck and killed a woman on a motorcycle in 2010. Prosecutors are not offering more details about the case, while Carl Pistorius’ attorney told reporters that police-administered blood tests will prove that Carl Pistorius was not under the influence of alcohol or other substances at the time of the incident. Carl is also represented by the same attorney as his brother, Kenny Oldwage, an all-start litigator in South Africa who according to The Guardian could be making about $5,500 per day.
Botha has been charged with other fellow officers with seven counts of attempted murder, representing each bus passenger. According to the prosecution, Botha shot at the bus in an alleged drunken state. However, Botha maintains that lethal force was necessary as a preemptive way to protect himself against one of the bus passengers who was accused of dismembering a body and attempting to flush it down a drain.
During Pistorius’ bail hearing, Botha admitted that he had wrongly stated that detectives found testosterone supplements in Pistorius’ home. Botha also admitted that detectives did not have evidence proving that Pistorius murdered his girlfriend.
The timing of Botha’s and Carl Pistorius’ accusations has raised suspicions, since the investigations for both of their alleged crimes were initially dropped, but then were mysteriously reinstated near the time of Pistorius’ arrest. However, Botha was charged with attempted murder a second time a few days prior to Pistorius’ arrest for murdering his girlfriend. The South African police force in a statement said Botha was chosen to lead the case since he had 24 years of experience with the police force, but did not comment on why Botha was allowed to be the lead detective for Pistorius’ case while under indictment for attempted murder. It appears that Botha was forced to resign for giving false testimony, which has served as a major embarrassment for the South African police force.
According to some observers, the reason why Pistorius is surrounded by alleged perpetrators is not as much of a coincidence as it is the byproduct of what some say is a cult of violence in South Africa, where there were almost 16,000 murders last year out of a population of 51 million and are over six million guns.
In The Guardian, author Christopher Hope, described the Pistorius case as a very common type of occurrence in South Africa, except it involves a shooter who also happens to be a famous Olympic athlete and his supermodel girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as the victim:
“In the Valentine’s Day fusillade the quintessential South African way of doing things is mercilessly revealed: it is a violent way, founded on machismo, carried out with gusto and it ends in bloodshed. It is a way that began long ago, in a country where the three Rs seldom meant reading, writing and arithmetic–but something closer to rugby, rape, and revolution.”
As for Pistorius, he is in many ways a product of his culture and social class. It is common for those who live in the seemingly protective custody of gated communities in South Africa to still feel the need to sleep near a high-caliber handgun or shotgun within arm’s length for protection if needed. Pistorius, like millions of other South African males, is a self-acknowledged gun enthusiast who was armed to the teeth and ready to protect himself against intruders.
But Pistorius may be especially gun crazy, even by South African standards. Police confiscated a large stash of revolvers, shotguns, and rifles at Pistorius’ home following his arrest, most of which he didn’t have a permit for. But just days after getting out of jail on bail, one of the first things Pistorius did was to reapply for a permit to replace the handguns the police had taken away, The Guardian reported. CNN reported that Pistorius always packed a gun wherever he went and at one time applied for a gun collector license so he could own more than the six gun-per-person limit in South Africa.
But Pistorious’ violent tendencies aside, it can be said that Pistorious is surrounded by violence, on both a micro- and macro-scale. Maybe the talents of someone like Micki Pistorius, Pistorious’ aunt and serial murder and crime expert, could shed some light on why Pistorious is part of such a web of violence. Instead of looking for sociological explanations, a forensic psychologist has the ability to apply their skills for gathering information about a perpetrator’s personality by studying crime scenes. It would be interesting to see what forensic psychologists have learned about Pistorious’ personality who have invariably studied the crime scene where he shot his girlfriend, but have not yet disclosed their findings publicly. An analysis of the scenes where Botha fired his gun with what prosecutors say was the intent to kill and where Pistorious’ brother ran over a motorcyclist might reveal elements about their personalities as well. Taking a more bird’s eye view, maybe analyzing the data at hundreds of crime scenes in South Africa and how they reflect the personalities of the perpetrators might shed some light on what makes South Africa such a violent society.
As Micki Pistorius writes in “Profiling Serial Killers: And Other Crimes in South Africa,” profiling serves as an “educated attempt to provide investigative agencies with specific information about the type of individual who could have committed a particular crime.” A better understanding of the tens of thousands of murderers in South Africa might reveal a common thread of why so many South Africans are prone to violence and why Pistorius is on trial for murdering his girlfriend.