8 Dec 2014

Shrien Dewani ‘not guilty’ as judge stops murder trial

The family of Anni Dewani, whose husband has been cleared of her murder during the couple’s South Africa honeymoon, say they are “deeply disappointed” that the justice system has failed them.

Mr Dewani, 34, denied plotting to kill his wife on their luxury getaway to Cape Town in November 2010, as they took a cab ride through a township. Mr Dewani was released unharmed, but his wife’s body was found in the abandoned car the next day. She had been shot.

Not guilty

Judge Jeanette Traverso today said the evidence of the chief prosecution witness in the trial was “riddled with contradictions” and “highly debatable”.

Announcing her ruling, the judge said: “The accused is found not guilty of this charge.”

Three men have already been convicted of their role in the killing.

Shrien Dewani

Prosecutors say bisexual Dewani wanted out of the relationship and plotted for his engineer wife, 28, to be killed in an apparent botched hijacking.

‘Highly improbable’

Dewani, from Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol, was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice.

His lawyers last month applied for Judge Traverso to dismiss the case. Dewani, who can now return to the UK, was told by the judge that evidence from the three criminals was “so improbable, with so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies you cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins”.

You cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins. Judge Traverso

Judge Traverso was scathing of chief prosecution witness, cab driver Zola Tongo, part of whose evidence she described as “highly improbable”.

Tongo is already serving an 18-year prison term.

Shrien and Anni Dewani

She said a defendant was entitled to be discharged if there was no possibility of conviction unless he entered the witness box and incriminated himself.

Tongo was the only accomplice witness, she said, adding that such evidence should be treated with “caution”.

‘More questions’

In a statement outside of court, the family of Anni Dewani said they were “really, really sad because we have not heard the full story. Shrien lived a double life.”

Ms Dewani’s sister, Ami Denborg said: “Today we feel as a family that the justice system has failed us and we are deeply disappointed.

We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth and all we got was more questions. Ami Denbourg

“We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth and all we got was more questions.

“All we wanted was to hear all the events and the hope of actually finding that out has kept us, as a family, going.

“Unfortunately we believe that this right has now been taken away from us.”

Last week the Hindochas begged Dewani to “tell the world what happened the night she died”, with her brother Anish imploring him to take to the witness stand and tell his story for the first time.

South African National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Ncube told reporters: “Ideally, you want to have all your accused incriminated in the same offence and tried together.

“It was always going to be a challenge to try three witnesses who are accused differently, and four years later prosecute one of them and rely on the evidence of those three conspirators.”