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Dewani cleared of honeymoon murder


Shrien Dewani denies murder

Shrien Dewani denies murder

Shrien Dewani denies murder

The grief-stricken family of honeymoon murder victim Anni Dewani say they are still looking for answers after her British millionaire husband was cleared of plotting her brutal death.

Shrien Dewani, from Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol, heaved a sigh of relief as Judge Jeanette Traverso dismissed the case against him, after evidence from prosecution witnesses was described as being "riddled with contradictions".

Speaking on the steps of the Western Cape High Court after Dewani was acquitted, Anni's sister Ami Denborg said the family felt "failed" by the justice system, having waited four years for the case to be brought against the 34-year-old businessman wrongly accused of staging the car-jacking in which she was gunned down.

Ms Denborg said the family would be "haunted" by the decision. Holding back tears, she said: "We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth and all we got was more questions.

"We waited patiently for four years to hear what really happened to Anni and to hear the full story of what happened to our dearest little sister.

"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."

Drawing on evidence that Dewani had secret relationships with gay men in the months before they married, Ms Denborg said: "We heard that Shrien has led a double life and that Anni knew nothing about it.

"And we just wish that Shrien had been honest with us and especially with Anni."

The decision was a huge disappointment for the family of Anni, whose maiden name was Hindocha, while there were screams and shouts in the public gallery.

Dewani bolted from the dock as soon as the judge rose, leaving his family to embrace. Dewani left the court a short time later via a side gate, declining to comment.

Three men have already been convicted of plotting to kill Anni - while a self-confessed "middle man" who set up the murder may also face justice having previously been granted immunity by the state.

Prosecutors said bisexual Dewani had long planned to get out of the relationship to Swedish-raised engineer Anni, 28, and arranged a car-jacking on their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010 in which he would escape unharmed and Anni would be killed.

But Dewani's defence team criticised prosecution witnesses and said the case against him was weak.

Judge Traverso said chief prosecution witness cab driver Zola Tongo's claims about the murder were "riddled with contradictions" and "highly debatable".

The judge said the evidence presented by the prosecution fell "far below" the required threshold.

Dewani, who was finally extradited this year to face trial accused of planning the murder of his wife, listened intently as key evidence against him was criticised by the judge.

He heard the judge declare that the evidence from the three criminals already convicted over his bride's murder was "so improbable, with so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies you cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins".

Three men - Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and gunman Xolile Mngeni - have already been convicted for their part in Anni's murder, which happened when the Dewanis' chauffeur-driven late-night tour of a township was hijacked.

Today's ruling brings to an end a four-year wait for Dewani and his family to clear his name - a battle which has included lengthy spells in mental health units, lurid allegations about his private life and fighting extradition from the UK to face justice.

Dewani has yet to comment publicly on the case since extradition proceedings began, three weeks after the death.

Judge Traverso said it was crucial for the state's case to prove that Dewani entered into an agreement with others to have Anni killed.

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".

Qwabe is part-way through a 25-year jail sentence. Mngeni was serving life for firing the shot that killed Mrs Dewani, but died in prison from a brain tumour.

Speaking outside the court, South African National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Ncube told reporters: "Justice is indeed about making sure that where there is a case we successfully prosecute it and where we think there is sufficient evidence to take the matter to court we do so.

"We have successfully prosecuted three people who participated - not just participated but were actually part of the planning and executed the plan.

"And by the way ... the court said it could not rely on the evidence given by three witnesses who themselves had been convicted of the crime."

The judge confirmed Monde Mbolombo, a self-confessed "link man" in the plot, would no longer be granted immunity for his part in the plot.

The hotel porter admitted telling lies to the court to protect himself when the investigation first took hold. He had initially been granted immunity by prosecutors in return for being a state witness.

But the judge said: "As his evidence progressed it became more and more clear of his involvement."

It will now be up to prosecutors to decide whether Mbolombo should face criminal proceedings.

Eddie Classen, a leading lawyer with BDK Attorneys in Pretoria, said the case helped demonstrate the country's legal system was fair.

It comes after another high-profile case, that of athlete Oscar Pistorius, who was given a five-year prison term in October for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He had been convicted of culpable homicide but cleared of her murder, and is expected to serve about a year in jail.

Speaking after today's verdict Mr Classen denied the evidence against Dewani was "embarrassing" in its reliance in part on criminals, and said: "The justice system is not just there to convict people, it is also there to acquit people who are innocent.

"The courts must be trusted. It is a cornerstone of any democratic society. This is a positive for the justice system."

It is believed the prosecution are unable to appeal against the decision to acquit Dewani.

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