Shrien Dewani fit to stand trial for murder: what next?


Panel of psychiatric experts give court the green light to try Shrien Dewani following mental health evaluation

Shrien Dewani, the British businessman accused of ordering his wife’s murder on their honeymoon in South Africa, has been found fit to stand trial.

The 34-year-old, who has been receiving treatment at Valkenberg State Psychiatric Hospital in Cape Town, denies paying three men to kill his 28-year-old wife in the city in November 2010.

Following a 30-day mental health evaluation, similar to that undertaken by Oscar Pistorius, a panel of psychiatric experts have decided he is mentally fit to stand trial. The defence did not dispute the findings and a pre-trial hearing was set for 9 September. Dewani will be detained at Valkenberg hospital until then.

Here’s what we know so far about the case and what to expect next…

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. His wife’s sister Ami Denborg said today’s ruling was a “relief” for the family after waiting for so long. “I know this autumn is going to be tough for us, but we still want the trial to start so that we can get the information we need – we can get to know what really happened,” she said. “It feels like we’re moving forward. It’s still a long way to go but at least we’re taking steps in the right direction, and this feels like a huge step in the right direction.”

How did Anni and Shrien Dewani meet?

Shrien Dewani, from Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol, was privately educated at Bristol Grammar School, studied economics at Manchester University and qualified as an accountant. He left a job at Deloitte in London to return to Bristol to help run his family firm, PSP Healthcare, which owns a number of care homes. Swedish-born Anni Hindocha was an engineering graduate and part-time model. She met Dewani while staying with her cousin Sneha in Britain in 2009. Dewani proposed the following year in June, flying Anni to Paris and giving her a £25,000 diamond engagement ring. They married in October in an extravagant Hindu wedding in Mumbai. Less than two weeks later, Anni was shot dead.

What can we expect from the trial?

The murder trial looks set to begin on 6 October. Here’s what to expect:

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.

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