Shrien Dewani: date set for murder trial

Shrien Dewani

Judge sends Dewani for 30-day mental health test after psychiatrists return conflicting reports

LAST UPDATED AT 15:14 ON Fri 20 Jun 2014

Shrien Dewani, the British businessman accused of ordering his wife's murder on their honeymoon in South Africa, has been ordered to undergo a similar mental health evaluation to that of athlete Oscar Pistorius.

Dewani, now 34, denies paying three men to kill his 28-year-old wife in Cape Town in November 2010. He appeared in Western Cape High Court today, where prosecutors applied for the 30-day assessment after receiving two conflicting psychiatric reports about the defendant.

The defence did not oppose the application and said it believes Dewani will be able to stand trial on 6 October. Here's what we know so far about the case and what to expect if the trial goes ahead...

What happened on 13 November 2010?

Newlywed couple Shrien and Anni Dewani were kidnapped at gunpoint at 11pm while being driven in a taxi through Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town, during their honeymoon. Shrien Dewani was released unharmed at midnight in the Harare neighbourhood, but Anni's body was found the next day on the back seat of the abandoned taxi. She had suffered a fatal gunshot wound to her neck.

Who shot Anni Dewani?

Xolile Mngeni, 23 at the time of the murder, was convicted in November 2012 of firing the shot that killed Anni. The judge described Mngeni, who suffered from a rare form of brain cancer, as an "evil person" and sentenced him to life in prison. Two other men – Zola Tongo, 31 at the time, and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 26 – were also convicted in connection to the murder. Tongo, the taxi driver who arranged the shooting, was jailed for 18 years, while Qwabe, Mngeni's accomplice, was jailed for 25 years.

What are the charges against Dewani?

Dewani is charged with five counts relating to the murder of his wife: conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice. Tongo alleges that Dewani offered him 15,000 rand to have his wife killed. But Dewani's family, who at one point enlisted the services of PR spin master Max Clifford, describe the allegations as "totally ludicrous".

Why has it taken so long for Dewani to be tried?

Dewani spent years fighting extradition to South Africa, with his lawyers claiming he suffered from acute stress disorder and depression. In March 2014, the High Court refused to allow any further appeal and the following month he arrived in South Africa, where he is currently receiving treatment in Valkenberg State Psychiatric Hospital. If he is not brought to trial within 18 months he will be returned to the UK.

What can we expect from the trial?

A court hearing last month heard that Dewani's mental health had improved. Here's what to expect if his trial goes ahead:

Text messages: The court is likely to look at phone records and text messages between Dewani and Tongo, but also from Anni to her family. It has been claimed that Anni texted her cousin Sneha Hindocha a series of anguished texts in the run-up to her wedding, including one that said: "I don't want to marry him... I'm going to be unhappy for the rest of my life." Another report claimed that Anni had told her cousin that she had sex with Shrien five times in one night, but her family claim this is untrue.

CCTV and bank transactions: During the extradition appeal, Ben Watson, the British lawyer representing the South African government, claimed that Dewani had withdrawn £1,000 cash on his Mastercard before the murder. Watson said that CCTV footage also showed Dewani meeting Tongo several times before the murder, and again afterwards when they appear to exchange money. Dewani's family insists Dewani was innocently paying Tongo for his services as a taxi driver.

Dewani's finances: Accounts emerged showing that Dewani's company was £4.1 million in debt, reports the Daily Telegraph, but the company's auditors have made a statement to say it has "absolutely no cause for any concern with the trading position of the company, its funding strategy or its financial standing".

Witnesses: Qwabe and Tongo have agreed to testify against Dewani as part of their plea bargain. Some of Anni's relatives, including her cousin Sneha, are also likely to be called as witnesses. Leopold Leisser, a German escort based in the UK, may also appear as a witness for the state. He claims Dewani told him he needed to "find a way out of getting married" and that he would be "disowned" by his family if he attempted to break off his engagement. However, Dewani's family told The Independent there is clear evidence to refute Leisser's claims and also insisted there was no pre-nuptial agreement, no dowry and no pressure from the family to marry.

 

Shrien Dewani: will shooter's critical illness affect the trial?

11 June 

The man convicted of shooting Anni Dewani on her honeymoon in Cape Town, is said to be critically ill in hospital, prompting questions about the trial of the victim's husband, Shrien Dewani.

Xolile Mngeni, who is serving a life sentence in Cape Town, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour soon after his arrest in 2011. The BBC says he was believed to have been recovering, but was then admitted to hospital this week in a "serious, critical condition".

News of his ill health comes a week before Shrien Dewani is due back in court, accused of ordering his wife's murder.

Dewani, a 34-year-old businessman from Bristol, was extradited to South Africa in April and is currently receiving mental health treatment at Valkenberg Hospital in Cape Town. His case has been adjourned to 20 June after lawyers argued last month that he was not yet fit to stand trial.

Anni's body was found with a single gunshot wound to the neck after she and her husband were kidnapped while travelling in a taxi through the outskirts of Cape Town in 2010. He was released unharmed and denies any involvement in his wife's murder.

Commentators in South Africa have been turning to legal experts to determine whether Mngeni's ill health will have an impact on Dewani's trial.

Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, said it would depend on the importance of Mngeni’s testimony. He told the Daily News, a newspaper based in KwaZulu-Natal, that it was rare for the state to rely solely on the evidence of one witness.

The state would not "knowingly prosecute a case they don't have a chance of winning", he said. "Eighty to ninety percent of the cases prosecuted are successful convictions."

With the prosecution's witness list yet to be released, some experts believe Mngeni might not even be called to testify.

Franaaz Khan, a law lecturer from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, says that the other two men involved in the killing – Zola Tongo and Mziwamadoda Qwabe – are more likely to be relied upon as witnesses. They both pleaded guilty and agreed to be state witnesses as part of their plea bargain, whereas Mngeni denied his guilt.

 

Shrien Dewani not yet fit for honeymoon murder trial

12 May

THE BRITISH millionaire accused of ordering his wife's murder on their honeymoon in South Africa has had his case postponed after lawyers argued he is not yet fit to stand trial.

Shrien Dewani, 34, from Bristol, who was extradited to South Africa last month, appeared in a Cape Town court this morning accused of ordering the murder of his wife Anni Dewani in 2010.

Psychiatrists said he was co-operative but lacked the ability to concentrate for any length of time, his defence lawyer Francois van Zyl told the Western Cape High Court. His case was adjourned to 20 June.

Dewani, who is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice, will remain at Valkenberg Hospital to receive further treatment for his mental health.

Before his extradition to South Africa last month, Dewani was detained in a hospital in Britain for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, reports the BBC.

The millionaire businessman claims he and his wife were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through the Gugulethu township in a taxi. Dewani escaped unharmed, but his wife was found shot dead in the abandoned car the next day.

He is accused of paying three men, Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni, to kill her. All three are already serving jail terms in connection to the murder.

The prosecution's witness list is yet to be released, but local media have been speculating about who will be called to testify. South Africa's Sunday Times believe that Leopold Leisser, a London-based male escort, will be the prosecution's key witness.

Leisser is expected to support claims that Dewani paid for his services and plotted to have his bride killed in order to get out of their arranged marriage. Dewani has repeatedly denied the charges.

The South African government agreed to assess Dewani's mental state and fitness for trial as part of its extradition deal with the UK. If within 18 months he is still deemed unfit to stand trial, he will be sent back to England.

Shrien Dewani extradited to face South African trial

8 April 

SHRIEN DEWANI, the British man accused of hiring an assassin to kill his new wife while on their honeymoon, is expected to be charged with her murder within hours of arriving in Cape Town this morning.

The 33-year-old businessman is accused of arranging the murder of 28-year-old Anni Dewani, who was shot dead in a taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November, 2010. Dewani denies the charges.

The Bristol man left the country last night on a private charter flight paid for by the South African government after losing his appeal against extradition at the start of March. His flight arrived in Cape Town early this morning.

He is expected to be transferred from a holding cell to Cape Town High Court to appear before a judge at 10am. He will then spend the night in Valkenberg Hospital, a psychiatric facility near Cape Town, where he will be assessed by doctors to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.

Dewani has been receiving therapy for post-traumatic stress and depression in the years since the death of his wife. He was first ordered to be extradited in August 2010, but seven months later the High Court in London ruled that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to send him to South Africa until he had overcome his mental health problems.

His legal team's latest efforts to have the case referred to the Supreme Court were refused by a panel of judges. The team still has the option to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the BBC reports, but so far no application has been received.

Anni Dewani's uncle Ashok Hindocha told reporters that the family had waited a long time for official legal proceedings to begin. "We thought at the beginning that this is going to be a very quick case where Shrien would fly down to South Africa and stand trial and answer all the questions that is going to be given to him," he said.

Before his extradition, Dewani had been detained in the UK under the Mental Health Act.

Mthunzi Mhaga, justice spokesman for the South African government, said that Dewani would receive a fair hearing, and that throughout the trial he would be housed in a medical facility, the London Evening Standard reports.

"He will be kept in a medical facility due to his peculiar condition. We are working tirelessly to ensure that his return to our shores brings to finality this protracted legal process. We are confident that he will receive a fair trial in our courts," Mhaga said.

After the latest ruling, Anni's father Vinod Hindocha told reporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice: "We are quite happy with the decision and we hope to get the answers that we have been seeking for the past three and a half years. I really don't know what happened to my daughter. We need answers. We hope to get justice."
 

More about Shrien Dewani:

Shrien Dewani to be extradited to South Africa 'within 28 days' Shrien Dewani: Murder suspect loses bid to block extradition Shrien Dewani family welcome 'significant' Panorama findings · 

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