Shrien Dewani cleared in honeymoon trial, live –

Posted: Monday, December 08, 2014

• Judge Jeanette Traverso dismissed the case, arguing that the state’s key
witness, taxi driver Zola Tongo, gave testimony “riddled with
contradictions” and it was difficult to know where “the lies end
and the truth begins”

• Anni Dewani’s family said they were “deeply disappointed”
with the judge’s decision, especially because Shrien never had to take the
stand to give his version of events

• Dewani is expected to be released and could fly home to Britain later on

12.30 Aislinn Laing has further details from Anni’s family’s
statement outside court:

Here is a video of the family’s statement:

12.08 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.

12.00 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.

“It is unfortunate that Mr Dewani has been acquitted because we believe
that he was involved.

“And by the way, the court did not find that he was innocent, the court
said it could not rely on the evidence given by three witnesses who
themselves had been convicted of the crime.”

Mr Ncube also denied that the case had collapsed because of a “shoddy
police investigation”.

He said: “The judgment centres around evidence that was given by three
people. Nothing has been said about the police, nothing was said about how
the prosecution could have done better.

“The fact of the matter is that we were relying on people who were
themselves involved and implicated in the case.”

11.52 Aislinn Laing has sent the following update from court:

As the judgement was read out, Shrien Dewani showed no obvious reaction.
But as the judge swept from court, his family leapt up to embrace each
other, his brother Preyen and wife Kripa in tears. Both declined to comment
when approached as they walked to the chambers of his barrister François Van

Also in tears was the lead detective in the case, Captain Paul Hendrickse,
who spent four years putting a prosecution together as the South African
authorities fought for Mr Dewani’s extradition.

Speaking on the steps of the court, Mrs Dewani’s family said they had more
questions now than when they arrived for the start of the trial eight weeks

11.35 Here is
a timeline of the key events
in the Dewani trial.

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

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.

11.06 The 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.

11.02 Aislinn Laing has this from court:

10.54 Judge Jeannette Traverso said that prosecutors arguments had “fallen
far below” the level needed to secure conviction, paving the way for
Dewani to walk free.

Shrien Dewani leaves the dock a free man (SKY NEWS)

10.46 The accused is found not guilty on this charge. Dewani is free to
return home.

10.40 The judge says she “has heard” the “plight”
of Anni’s family. But she says she cannot be swayed by public opinion.

10.38 Judge Traverso refuses to grant Mbolombo indemnity.

10.36 The judge is now summarising her arguments. She says evidence of
three key witnesses is contradictory and all three are intelligent enough to
twist their versions.

“They may have been amateurs in arranging a hit… but I do not believe
they are so stupid to take part in a hit [for such a small amount of money].”

10.33 As he evidence progressed, it became clear… he played an
important role [in this incident].

10.21 Judge Traverso has moved on to the evidence of Monde Mbolombo
as an accomplice witness. She says he admitted lying.

10.17 Anni Dewani’s affluent Swedish family have spoken of their hope
of eventually hearing “the full story” from her husband. An acquittal, they
have said, will represent “a lifetime of torture”.


10.05 Aislinn Laing has this summary from court:

At this stage, no one apart from Judge Traverso and the two assessors
sitting either side of her in court, who will help her to reach her
judgement, know what that is.

But it hasn’t stopped fevered speculation about what it will be, and a
frantic scouring of her words for some clue as to whether Mr Dewani will be
on his way home soon, or taking the witness stand in his defence.

The judge has said the case will stand or fall on the evidence of the taxi
driver Zola Tongo, the only person who has given a first-hand account of Mr
Dewani’s involvement.

She has already spent a half an hour tearing that evidence apart, saying it
was “riddled with inconsistencies”, in parts “virtually
incomprehensible” and his version given in court “totally
irreconcilable” with what he had said in his affidavit to police.

She has raised the fact that Mr Tongo either shrugged, blamed mistakes on
the police affidavit or the court record, as well as seemingly inventing
evidence to patch up bits of his story that was not believable. To the
obvious chagrin of the two prosecutors sitting in their usual spots in court
today, the judge is being particularly meticulous in tearing this evidence
apart. On the other side of the bench, Mr Dewani’s barrister Francois Van
Zyl is sitting with his eyes closed, nodding fervently from time to time.

Although the judge has also made clear that the credibility of witnesses in
a decision whether to throw a case out early should play only a limited
part, it’s hard to see how she can decide that there is enough evidence for
her to convict when she clearly doesn’t believe a word said by the state’s
key witness.

Which leads us to the question of what happens next. Outside court, rumours
swirl of a last-minute, urgent application for Mr Dewani to be kept in the
country while the state appeals the judge’s decision. I’ve been told that Mr
Dewani’s family has a private plane awaiting him on the tarmac at Cape
Town’s nearby airport, or that there’s a safe-house where he’ll be
squirreled away until the inevitable storm that would follow his acquittal
at this stage dies down.

In court today is the national spokesman for the National Prosecuting
Authority, which fought so hard for Mr Dewani’s extradition back to South
Africa and has put together the case against him. If I were a betting woman,
I think he might find himself facing some fairly tough questions fairly

10.00 The judge says there are aspects of Tongo’s evidence that
incriminate Dewani, but his evidence was of such poor quality it is hard to
know where the lies end and the truth begins. She now moves on to the
evidence of Qwabe and Mbolombo.

09.59 Judge Traverso says the ultimate test is whether the court is
satisfied the story is essentially true, quoting case law.

09.54 Judge Traverso says she cannot accept that Dewani would co-opt
Tongo to kill so quickly. She is also unconvinced that Tongo would be
willing to ge involved.

09.45 It looks like Shrien Dewani, dressed in a dark suit and tie, will
be standing for a while. Judge Traverso continues to read from a lengthy
document summarising the evidence.

Dewani’s family are to his right in court. Anni’s family are to his left and
apparently are not happy:

09.38 Judge Traverso continues to summarise evidence.

09.32 The judge has returned to court. She asks Dewani to stand.

09.15 The court has adjourned for a tea break.

09.12 The judge is still criticising the taxi driver’s evidence. Even
if the trial is allowed to continue, this shows how dissatisfied she is with
the State’s case.

09.05 Judge Traverso says that the testimony of the two other middle
men, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Monde Mbolombo “contradict Mr Tongo on just
about every aspect of their interaction”.

But she added that credibility played a “limited role” at this

Here is a summary of their evidence from Aislinn Laing:

Robert Zola Tongo – taxi driver

Tongo, who is serving 18 years for his part in Mrs Dewani’s murder, told how
the British businessman promised to pay him R5,000 (£284) for arranging for
two “hitmen” to have someone “taken out of sight”, within half an hour of
their meeting at Cape Town’s International Airport.

Mr Tongo said he agreed because he needed the money. He said that after the
carjacking, Mr Dewani pestered him with questions about “whether the job was
done” as they waited for news at the couple’s luxury hotel, and later handed
him an envelope of cash in a plastic bag that amounted to just R1,000.

Both encounters between the two men were captured on CCTV – Mr Dewani’s legal
team said Mr Dewani was only enquiring after Tongo’s wellbeing and had paid
for the taxi driver’s legitimate services because he felt sorry for him. Mr
Tongo was criticised by the defence for contradicting his earlier accounts
in his testimony to the court.

Monde Mbolombo – the “middle man” who put Tongo in touch with

Mr Mbolombo, who was given immunity from prosecution in return for his
testimony at hitman Xolile Mngeni’s trial, admitted he lied about the extent
of role in his evidence then.

He told how Tongo contacted after him to say he had a client who wanted his
wife killed, and he put him in touch with a friend from the township. He
said he coordinated the attack in a series of phone calls on the night of
the carjacking.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe

One of the two men who forced the Dewani’s taxi off the road, and serving a
25-year jail sentence for his part in the crime. Qwabe said the couple’s
taxi driver contacted him through a middle man and said his client, Mr
Dewani, wanted his wife killed “but it had to look like a hijacking”.

He denied the suggestion that he had fired the fatal shot at Mrs Dewani, since
gunshot residue was found on the gloves he wore to drive the carjacked
vehicle. Qwabe was a contradictory and at times evasive witness. He told the
court he received a text message from the taxi driver confirming the “hit”
hours before, saying: “the husband wanted the job done that night”. He said
he and his co-attacker took R14,000 (£800) in cash from the car.

Xolile Mngeni was serving life for firing the shot that killed Mrs
Dewani, but died in prison from a brain tumour in October.

09.00 From Aislinn Laing in court:

08.51 The judge says the evidence of taxi driver Zola Tongo was “riddled
with contradictions”.


08.32 Defence laywers said the evidence of taxi driver Zola Tongo, who
is already serving 18 years in jail for Mrs Dewani’s murder, was unreliable.
Judge Traverso said: “It is crucial for the state to prove that Mr
Dewani entered into an agreement with Zola Tongo the taxi driver.”

08.12 The Telegraph’s Aislinn Laing is in court:

08.00 A South African judge is ruling on whether charges that British
businessman Shrien Dewani murdered his bride on their honeymoon should be
thrown out of court.

Dewani’s lawyers applied for his discharge at the end of the state’s case,
arguing that the evidence against him was so weak he should be acquitted
without even having to mount a defence.

But the dead woman’s family has urged Western Cape High Court Judge Jeannette
Traverso to force Dewani to testify.

“Don’t let Shrien Dewani walk away without giving us, South Africa and
people from all over the world the full story,” Anni Dewani’s brother
Anish Hindocha told a news conference last week.

Prosecutors say Dewani, 34, hired hitmen to kill his 28-year-old Swedish bride
Anni in a staged hijacking because he is a gay man who felt trapped into
marriage by family pressures.

Dewani says he is bisexual and loved Anni.

Both families – the Dewanis and the Hindochas – are of Indian origin, and have
sat on opposite sides of the courtroom throughout weeks of sensational

The driver of the hijacked taxi and one of the hijackers – both serving long
jail terms for the murder – testified that Dewani hired them for 15,000 rand
($1,300) to kill his wife.

Dewani’s lawyer, Francois van Zyl, argued that their evidence was full of
contradictions and “cannot safely be relied upon”.

According to South Africa’s Criminal Procedure Act, an accused can be declared
not guilty at the close of the prosecution’s case if the court feels there
is insufficient evidence to show he or she committed the crime.

If the judge drops the charges, he would be free to return to Britain


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