Saturday 25 November 2017

Bridegroom accused of honeymoon murder fights extradition to South Africa

Murder accused: Shrien Dewani. Photo: Getty Images
Murder accused: Shrien Dewani. Photo: Getty Images

Rosa Silverman

British Businessman Shrien Dewani would be seen to have committed a "sissy crime" if jailed for allegedly ordering his wife's murder on honeymoon, a court heard today.

South African authorities, who want to extradite him over the killing there, suggested his high public profile would give him protection against violent treatment by other prisoners.

But an expert on the country's penal system said the "white collar" nature of the crime - and the young Briton's wealth and looks - could count against him behind bars.

Giving evidence on the third day of his extradition hearing, Sasha Gear from Johannesburg's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said: "In the case of Mr Dewani, I'm positive that there's a potential for (his high profile) not to play such a protective role because of the extent to which it could highlight factors about Mr Dewani that indicate vulnerability.

"For example the type of crime he is alleged to have committed would be considered a sissy crime in the prison culture; also that he comes from a well-to-do background, what he looks like.

"These sort of things are magnified with publicity."

Lawyer Hugo Keith QC, representing the South African authorities, cited the case of another Briton whose high profile had protected him when he was jailed in the country for murder.

The unnamed prisoner was said to have claimed that press reporting of his crime "helped me", adding: "If you're known outside you won't suffer anything."

But because Dewani's alleged victim was a woman and he was not directly involved in any violence meant his high profile would not guarantee his safety, Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London heard.

Anni Dewani, 28, was shot dead in the back of taxi in Cape Town on November 13 after a hijacking said to have been staged.

Cabbie Zola Tongo claimed in a plea bargain that Dewani offered him cash to arrange for two hit-men to ambush his vehicle as they drove through the dangerous Gugulethu township.

Dewani and Tongo were ejected from the cab, while Dewani's Swedish bride was driven off and killed.

The 31-year-old Bristol care home owner denies any wrongdoing and is fighting extradition.

Threatening comments have been directed towards Dewani on social networking sites in South Africa, some of which were read out by his lawyer Clare Montgomery QC to give a flavour of what awaits him if he is extradited.

"Shrien Dewani should get put in jail and then raped every day," said one.

Another, apparently a prisoner writing from behind bars, posted: "You better pray you don't share a cell with me because in South Africa we don't like wife killers."

A third menacing message read: "Shrien Dewani, you're a coward. Boy are you going to get it in jail."

And in a fourth online comment read out to the court, Dewani was told: "Shrien, if I were you I would hang myself because the guys in prison already know about you and are licking their lips."

Ms Montgomery said: "Hostility is the overwhelming tenor of the social networking comments."

She also cited a remark made by the chief of the South African police in December, labelling Dewani a "monkey".

General Bheki Cele told South African media: "One monkey came from London to kill his wife here.

"He thought we South Africans were stupid. Don't kill people here."

Mr Keith accepted that, regarding the comments posted on the social networks, "plainly everyone who sees this material couldn't fail to be shocked and appalled by it".

But he went on to cite the many provisions made to ensure anyone charged with a crime receives a fair trial in South Africa.

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