Honeymoon Murder Suspect Dewani Held in South African HospitalMike Cohen
Briton Shrien Dewani will be detained at Valkenberg hospital in Cape Town, where he will receive psychiatric treatment pending his trial for the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in 2010.
Dewani arrived in South Africa aboard a chartered private jet this morning after losing a three-year legal battle to prevent his extradition from the U.K. He was taken from the Cape Town airport to the High Court where he was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice, according to a copy of his indictment.
Dewani, who wore a charcoal suit and white tie and was accompanied by his mother, father and four other family members, appeared before Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, who postponed the case until May 12. The delay was proposed by state prosecutor Rodney de Kock and supported by Dewani’s lawyer, Francois van Zyl.
Dewani said he and his wife Anni were carjacked at gunpoint while traveling in a taxi through Cape Town’s Gugulethu township on Nov. 13, 2010. While the businessman was released unharmed, his wife was found dead on the back seat of the abandoned vehicle the next day with a gunshot wound in her neck. Prosecutors say Dewani arranged the killing, an allegation he denies.
“The next thing we are looking forward to is the trial itself,” Nathi Mncube, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, told reporters outside the court. “For now, he is going to be in custody. He will be receiving treatment at the hospital and he will be appearing again for the pre-trial conference on May 12.”
Dewani has been treated at a U.K. hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression since his wife’s death, and his lawyers unsuccessfully argued that his mental health wouldn’t allow him to stand trial.
“It is in our interests as much as it is in his interests to make sure first and foremost that we protect him and that we ensure he is healthy to stand trial,” Mncube said. “While he is in the care of the doctors and nurses, they will be able to give us more information in terms of his health and we will be able to make a decision going forward.”
Xolile Mngeni admitted to the shooting and was jailed for life in 2012, while accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe, who also pleaded guilty to murder, received a 25-year prison sentence. Taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years for being an accomplice to the crime.
Dewani “unlawfully and intentionally conspired” with the three men “to commit the offense of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and murder,” the indictment reads. “According to the conspiracy agreement, the accused would provide payment to the perpetrators.”
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has guaranteed Dewani a fair hearing and said the U.K. courts’ decision to approve his extradition reaffirmed the international standing of South Africa’s legal system and its commitment to upholding the rule of law.
Dewani “remains committed to proving his innocence in a court of law and uncovering the truth behind his wife’s murder,” his family said in a statement sent to the South African Press Association. “We look forward to his health improving, his name being cleared, and there being an end to this legal trauma for all involved.”
Dewani was flown on a private aircraft to Cape Town to ensure his security, Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesman for the South African Justice Ministry, said today in a statement. Dewani was accompanied by a doctor, nurse, police and members of Interpol, he said.
Mhaga said he was unable to disclose who the trial judge would be.
South Africa’s murder rate is more than six times higher than that of the U.S., with 16,259 homicides committed in the country in the 12 months through March last year, latest police data shows.
A group of about 30 members of the ruling African National Congress’ Womens League staged a protest outside the Cape Town court, demanding that Dewani be jailed.