Shrien Dewani trial: police question who paid for hitman's funeral

Shrien Dewani arrives in court

Lawyer denied that Shrien Dewani was connected to mystery donor who paid murderer's legal fees

LAST UPDATED AT 13:09 ON Fri 21 Nov 2014

South African police are reportedly trying to find out if the mystery donor who paid the legal fees for one of Anni Dewani's murderers also funded his funeral last month.

Xolile Mngeni was sentenced to 25 years for firing the shot that killed Anni on 13 November 2010, but died in prison last month after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

During his 2012 trial, Mngeni's private lawyer Matthews Dayimani revealed that his fees were being paid for by an anonymous human rights organisation "interested in the case".

Pressed further by reporters outside court, Dayimani said the donor was a Kenyan man named Edmondo. "He is a legal consultant working on his own," said the lawyer.

At the time, Dayimani dismissed speculation that Shrien Dewani was in any way connected to the donor. He also told South Africa's Daily Voice that he had no direct dealings with "Edmundo" and that it was Mngeni's family who had been in touch with the mystery man.

Two years later, the donor's identity has still not been revealed and, according to South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper, police are trying to find out if he is the one who paid for Mngeni's funeral last month.

Dayimani said he contributed to Mngeni's funeral parlour costs and believed Mngeni's extended family paid for the rest. He added this week that Mngeni's legal costs were also partly funded by his own pro-bono work, which he said "almost bankrupted" him.

The Mail and Guardian says it still "begs the question why a donor or foreign human rights group would fund the large legal costs of a man who had chosen a life of crime, and whose criminal record was a serious indictment of the South African judicial system".

Shrien Dewani's lawyers are currently trying to have his case thrown out. His is accused of paying Mngeni and two other men to kill his wife in a fake carjacking during their honeymoon in Cape Town. However, legal experts have suggested the state has failed to provide enough evidence to prove his guilt.

There were no plans for Mngeni to be called as a witness during Dewani's trial. After initially admitting to Anni's murder, Mngeni changed his plea to not guilty and said he had been tortured by police into confessing. He turned down Legal Aid representation and arrived at court with private lawyers.

Shrien's trial will resume on Monday.

 

Shrien Dewani: why murder trial could collapse in a week

17 November

Honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani could be "going home next Monday" if the Western Cape High Court agrees to dismiss his case.

Shrien's defence lawyers announced today that they would be applying for the charges against their client to be dropped. The court has been adjourned so the two sides can prepare their cases for and against dismissal, before making their arguments to Judge Jeanette Traverso next week

"Potentially [Shrien] could be going home next Monday," says News24 reporter Roy McKenzie.

Under Section 174 of South Africa's Criminal Procedure Act, a case can be dismissed if the state has not produced evidence strong enough to secure a conviction.

"You have to have a conviction beyond reasonable doubt," says McKenzie. "You can't send an innocent man to prison, but you also cannot send a person to prison when the evidence is not quite strong enough to convict them. I think very much that is what is going to happen here."

The state, which has called 16 witnesses, closed its case today. It claims Shrien paid a group of South African men to kill his wife while they were on their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Judge Traverso has made several scathing comments about the prosecution's case. She excluded much of the evidence from three witnesses, including gay escort Leopold Leisser, after Shrien admitted his bisexuality last month and she accused the prosecution of "scurrying around for witnesses" weeks into the trial.

On top of this, the three main state witnesses gave "very poor evidence", says William Booth, chairman of the South African Law Society's criminal law and procedure committee.

Zola Tongo and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, both jailed for Anni's murder, were repeatedly accused of giving inconsistent evidence. Middleman Monde Mbolombo, who was granted immunity for testifying in an earlier trial, admitted to previously lying under oath. The defence also noted that Tongo had received a cut in his prison sentence in exchange for implicating Shrien in the murder.

"The main problem is you are dealing with witnesses who are accomplices, so you must treat the evidence with caution," Booth tells the Daily Mail.

News24's Roy McKenzie says that the National Prosecuting Authority could face some difficult questions about why it spent so much money on extraditing Shrien from the UK if its "watertight" case crumbles.

 

Shrien Dewani: gunshot expert casts doubt on defence theory

14 November

A gunshot residue expert testifying at the trial of Shrien Dewani has cast doubt on the defence's claim that hitman Mziwamadoda Qwabe shot Anni Dewani.

Colonel Thandiwe Mlabateki, from the South African Police Service's forensic science laboratory, was called by the prosecution after the defence suggested the state had accused the wrong man of pulling the trigger.

Xolile Mngeni was jailed for 25 years for shooting Anni, although he died from a brain tumour last month. His associate Qwabe was given the same sentence for his part in the murder plot.

Defence lawyer Francois Van Zyl has claimed it was in fact Qwabe who pulled the trigger as he attempted to pull Anni out of the car. The court has heard that gunshot residue was found on a yellow kitchen glove worn by Qwabe that night.

But today's police witness, who has 19 years' experience in forensics, said someone might test positive for primer residue if they were within two metres of the person who fired the gun.

Mlabateki, the state's 16th witness, said a primer residue examination cannot determine who the shooter is because particles end up on all exposed surfaces.

The prosecution claims Shrien paid Mngeni, Qwabe and taxi driver Zola Tongo to kill his wife in a fake carjacking.

After the couple had eaten at a restaurant on 13 November 2010, Tongo drove them through a township, where the vehicle was hijacked by Mngeni and Qwabe. Shrien and Tongo were forced out of the car and Anni was later found dead in the back seat.

But Shrien's defence lawyers claim their client had nothing to do with Anni's murder and have suggested that she was killed when a plan to kidnap her for money went wrong. 

Yesterday, Anni's family marked the fourth anniversary of her death through prayer and reflection at the scene where her body was found.

 

Shrien Dewani trial: state still 'scurrying around for witnesses'

13 November

The judge presiding over the Shrien Dewani case has lambasted the prosecution for "scurrying around for witnesses" so late in the trial.

Judge Jeanette Traverso expressed frustration with prosecutor Adrian Mopp today after he asked for proceedings to be cut short so he could call a new police witness on Friday.

"It's unfortunate that on the 20th day, the state is still scurrying around for witnesses," said Judge Traverso. "I must just express my great displeasure at the way in which the matter is being dealt with. This case has cost the state a lot of money and a lot of publicity. When is it going to end?"

Mopp assured her that this was the last piece needed in the investigation and revealed that the witness would be a police expert on primer residue who would testify on what happens when a shot is fired.

"This crime was committed four years ago. There were lengthy extradition proceedings, statements have been made, video clips have been made, police have gone on television, Panorama programmes and other programmes about the state's case," she said.

"And now you are telling me that you are waiting for something as fundamental as primer residue?"

The court will not reconvene until Friday, with Anni's family due to mark the fourth anniversary of her death tomorrow.

Earlier today, Shrien's defence lawyers showed three CCTV clips of him and Anni apparently enjoying each other's company just before the shooting.

Shrien wiped away tears in court as the couple were seen on the screen walking together and taking photographs of each other. At one point Shrien holds Anni and kisses her.

Later that day, on 13 November 2010, Anni and Shrien travelled in a taxi to a restaurant. The vehicle was later hijacked by two men, who forced Shrien and the taxi driver out of the car and shot Anni.

The two hitmen Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni and the taxi driver Zola Tongo have already been jailed for Anni's murder. Shrien denies paying the men to kill his wife.

 

Anni Dewani 'ready to leave' Shrien days before murder

11 November

Shrien Dewani's wife told him she was "ready to pack and leave" days before she was murdered in a carjacking in Cape Town, South Africa.

Emails found on Anni Dewani's Blackberry suggest that she wanted to break off the marriage days after their wedding, before they left for their honeymoon in South Africa in November 2010.

"I don't want an insecure man or whose feelings aren't real. I am ready to pack and leave. This is not a joke," she wrote.

Referring to their £200,000 Hindu wedding ceremony in Mumbai, she added: "Because we had a Bollywood wedding doesn't mean we are Bollywood actors and should just pretend."

The contents of the email were revealed at the Western Cape High Court, where Shrien is on trial for allegedly paying hitmen to shoot his wife.

Three men – taxi driver Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni – have already been jailed for Anni's murder.

Here's what else we heard today:

9.30am: The prosecution calls its next witness, police officer Captain Paul Hendrickse. The court hears that police investigating the case obtained emails sent from Anni to Shrien. In one email, dated 5 November 2010, just eight days before Anni was shot, she suggests that Shrien had expressed doubts about the marriage. "You did say if you saw in a crystal ball how this marriage would have been like then you wouldn't have got married," she wrote. Anni says she is "letting this go" but asks him to tell her if he feels anything else negative about the relationship. She warns that pretending everything is good when it isn't will result in them "hating each other".

1.00pm: Hendrickse claims Shrien has changed his version of events. In his police statement, Shrien claimed he gave Anni's rings to the attackers, but then specifically asked the officer to find the ring he had hidden in the taxi. Hendrickse says Shrien never mentioned that he had asked taxi driver Zola Tongo to arrange a helicopter trip as a surprise for his wife. If Shrien had mentioned it, Tongo would have become a "suspect right from the beginning and it would have provided a motive", says Hendrickse. The police officer suggests this part of Dewani's testimony is "newly fabricated".

 

Shrien Dewani: hotel clerk admits 'leading role' in murder

10 November

A hotel receptionist who escaped prosecution over the Anni Dewani shooting has admitted he took a "leading role" in the murder plot.

Monde Mbolombo is back on the witness stand at the trial of British businessman Shrien Dewani, who is accused of paying a group of South African men to murder his wife.

Three men – taxi driver Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni – were jailed for Anni's murder. Mbolombo was given immunity from prosecution for testifying against Mngeni, but he has now been warned that he could face prosecution after all if he implicates himself at the Shrien Dewani trial.

Today he admitted taking a "leading role" in organising the murder, in which Qwabe and Mngeni hijacked the Dewanis' taxi on 13 November 2010 and later shot Anni in the back seat.

The court has previously been shown CCTV footage of Shrien slipping away from a police officer and his father-in-law to allegedly pay his taxi driver Tongo for organising his wife's murder.

Shrien admits handing over R1,000 (£65) to Tongo, who is serving  an 18-year prison sentence for his part in the murder, but Shrien says he handed it over as a tip, with a thank you card for Tongo's help after the carjacking.

Hotel footage of the two men on the day after Anni's murder shows Shrien glancing up at a CCTV camera in the corner of the room. Tongo claimed that he had warned Dewani about the camera as they allegedly spoke in secret.

Today Mbolombo is back in the witness stand. Here is what we have heard so far:

10.00am: Defence lawyer Francois Van Zyl asks Mbolombo why he refers to hitman Mziwamadoda Qwabe as "Abongile" in all his witness statements and court testimonies, when Qwabe said he had never heard of the name. Van Zyl suggests Mbolombo had been covering for Qwabe by using a fake name and later lied that it was a nickname. Mbolombo claims he had forgotten Qwabe's name and did not want to ask him because they had known each other for so long. "Where did you get the name Abongile from? Is it something you made up?" asks Judge Jeanette Traverso. "Yes," says Mbolombo. Van Zyl asks him why he would then continue to use the made-up name once he had found out Qwabe's real name. "There is no particular reason for keeping on with that name, but since I started using it, I continued using it," says Mbolombo.

Midday: Mbolombo admits that he contacted the hitmen hours before the murder to insist that it must happen that night. Van Zyl suggests that this is evidence of Mbolombo "taking control" and "giving instructions". The witness agrees and says: "I was making sure the job was done. Since there was money to be received, I wanted to make sure it happened." However, he says the instruction had come from taxi driver Zola Tongo. Judge Traverso asks if he maintains that he took a "leading role" throughout the murder plot. Mbolombo says this is correct.

     

More about Shrien Dewani:

Middleman said killing was 'Islamic thing'Graphic emails barred by court in blow for stateShrien Dewani reveals he is bisexual on first day of murder trialShrien Dewani described himself as 'perverted' on GaydarShrien Dewani reveals he is bisexual on first day of murder trial Shrien Dewani: what we know about the honeymoon murder caseMurder suspect loses bid to block extradition Shrien Dewani family welcome 'significant' Panorama findings

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