Thursday 21 November 2019

Honeymoon murder accused is a ‘husk’ who plays computer games in disused van

Shrien Dewani and Anni Dewani. Photo: PA
Shrien Dewani and Anni Dewani. Photo: PA

Alex Diaz

A BUSINESSMAN wanted in South Africa over the honeymoon murder of his wife in a taxi is now terrified of travelling by car, his lawyer told a court today.

Shrien Dewani is currently being treated in a secure mental health hospital for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) so he can be extradited to face the charges.

Dewani's 28-year-old wife Anni, who was from Sweden, was shot when a taxi the couple were travelling in was hijacked in the Gugulethu township on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.

His lawyer, Clare Montgomery, today told Westminster Magistrates' Court that the symptoms he is suffering have worsened, rendering him a "husk of a man".

She said: "He cannot travel by car as he has a severe reaction, he doesn't want to get into a travelling car or go outside.

"He doesn't even want to go to the shops on his own," she added as the conditions of his bail were discussed.

"In his current state it is unthinkable he would be able to plan any escape, let alone effect one."

The court heard that Dewani has a "withdrawn" attitude and spends his time in a disused camper van outside Fromeside Clinic in Bristol playing computer games.

He has flashbacks and remembers the breath of a man holding a gun to his head, the court was told.

Hugo Keith QC, representing the South African authorities, said the 32-year-old does not see himself as a patient at times, that he has fought against treatment and has been aggressive towards staff.

Giving evidence, his psychiatrist, Dr Paul Cantrell, admitted that Dewani had "adapted poorly" to treatment and is suffering from severe PTSD and moderate depression.

District Judge Howard Riddle agreed to allow him to switch from Fromeside to Blaise View mental health hospital in Bristol, which was described as a more "open, relaxed and calm environment".

Dewani's bail conditions include a £250,000 security which has already been paid, not to leave the mental health hospital where he is required to spend nights without permission, and to continue with his treatment.

Dewani’s mental condition will be reviewed again at Westminster Magistrates' Court on April 11 next year, ahead of a provisional full extradition hearing date on July 1.

Speaking outside court, Mrs Dewani's uncle, Ashok Hindocha, said the wait for the extradition hearing would be "eight months of torture" for the family.

"We accept the court's decision today," he said.

"We know these things take time and British justice has taken too much long time."

Mr Hindocha said Mrs Dewani's father, Vinod Hindocha, who was also in court today, will fly to South Africa tomorrow to "ensure justice is being done".

In March, the High Court temporarily halted Dewani's extradition because of his poor mental health.

Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, and Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that it was "unjust and oppressive" to send him to South Africa straight away.

But they rejected claims that he should not be extradited on human rights grounds and said it is in the interests of justice that he be extradited "as soon as he is fit".

Last month, Xolile Mngeni, a hitman allegedly hired by Dewani, was found guilty of premeditated murder after a judge at the Western Cape High Court heard an "avalanche of evidence" against him.

Prosecutors believe the 25-year-old pulled the trigger after he was recruited to carry out the assassination in an attack designed to resemble a car hijacking.

Mrs Dewani was found dead in the back of the abandoned vehicle with a bullet wound to her neck after taxi driver Zola Tongo drove the newlyweds to the area.

He and Dewani were ejected by the hijackers before Mrs Dewani was driven away and killed.

Tongo, who has admitted his part in the crime, claimed in a plea agreement with prosecutors that Dewani ordered the carjacking and paid for a hit on his wife.

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