Forty-nine cellphones confiscated from South African police officers could be used as evidence in possible disciplinary proceedings against the cops. Their crime? Photographing athletics star and murder suspect Oscar Pistorius.
Officers were apparently desperate to get a photo of the world-famous Pistorius after the Olympic athlete and double amputee was arrested over the death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Of the 49 cellphones confiscated, South Africa’s minister of police said four were “official” cellphones while the remaining 45 were private handsets.
Police minister Nathi Mthethwa said the phones were taken from officers at Boschkop police station. They had been used to snap pictures of Pistorius as he was transferred between court and the station shortly after his arrest, revealed Mthethwa in a written statement to parliament. Speaking of the mass confiscation, he added:
“This action was necessary after it came to light that photos were taken of a high profile individual who had been arrested.”
The 49 cellphones confiscated were taken from officers on February 20, six days after Pistorius’ initial arrest. The number of officers involved has not been revealed.
When first arrested in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day, Pistorius was held at Boschkop, the station closest to his home in Pretoria. The athlete was later moved to another police station for his bail hearing at Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.
South African police have already faced criticism over their conduct in the case against Pistorius. It was revealed that the former lead investigating officer, Hilton Botha, was himself facing seven charges of attempted murder. Botha was removed from the case and later resigned from the South African police. This latest incident is likely to provoke more questions about the professional standards of the South African force.