Here's why Shrien Dewani was acquitted of murdering his wife

Here's why Shrien Dewani was acquitted of murdering his wife

Shrien Dewani is a free man after the case against him over the honeymoon murder of his wife was dismissed.

The 34-year-old has been acquitted of the murder of Anni Dewani, née Hindocha, who was found dead in a South African township aged 28 in November 2010 after the taxi she was in with her new husband was hijacked.

Four years after her murder in Cape Town, this is why the case against Dewani, a wealthy businessman from near Bristol, broke down without him ever having to take the stand.

The key witness

At Western Cape High Court today Judge Jeanette Traverso ruled on the application by defence lawyer Francois van Zyl to have the case thrown out.

She said the only reason not to would be in the hope Dewani would implicate himself under cross-examination.

Judge Traverso said the claims of Zola Tongo, the central prosecution witness, were "riddled with contradictions" and "highly debatable".

Tongo, one of three men already convicted over Anni Dewani's murder, received a seven-year reduction in his 25-year sentence for testifying against Dewani, claiming he was hired by him to orchestrate the murder of his wife.

But Judge Traverso said in some instances Tongo's evidence "makes no sense".

"One does simply not know where the lies end and truth begins," she said.

In his affidavit he makes no mention of the promise by the accused to offer clients to him and grow his business (in exchange for helping with the murder).

Considering this was the main motivation (for Tongo) it seems strange he did not mention it in his police statement.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe and gunman Xolile Mngeni are the other two people to have been convicted over Anni Dewani's murder.

Qwabe is serving a 25-year jail term, while Mngeni died in prison from a brain tumour.

Judge Traverso said there was simply no way to corroborate Tongo's claims.

  • Zola Tongo pictured in court in 2010

The prosecution case

In a shock move at the start of the trial, which came after years of extradition proceedings against Dewani while he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the defence revealed Dewani was bisexual and he had wanted to call off the wedding with Anni.

The prosecution had planned to use Dewani's sexuality and problems in their relationship as part of their case, but evidence from a male prostitute was rejected.

At times Judge Traverso seemed to despair about the prosecution's case, saying: "You have had four years to prepare."

  • The prosecution hoped to use the Dewanis' apparently unhappy marriage in their case

The legacy of the earlier trials

Ballistics evidence from the original prosecutions was also rejected, with Dewani's lawyers claiming it was actually Qwabe who fired the fatal shot after Dewani was ejected from the taxi and Anni Dewani driven off.

This would mean that Qwabe lied during the trial of Mngeni, who was convicted of firing the actual shot that killed Anni Dewani.

The officer who conducted the ballistics investigations initially admitted in the Dewani trial he could not have been sure the shooter was in the left front seat as originally attested.

The impartiality of investigating officer Captain Paul Hendrikse was also brought into question by the defence.

He had written on Facebook after the extradition of Dewani was initially rejected: "Human rights?? Mental Health act? Fair trial? Are these just escape routes to avoid justice and have the learned people of our society been so misled by it that they make decisions hurting the victims of horrendous crimes even further. What has our world become?? I'm lost and slowly loosing [sic] faith."

Defence lawyers also noted Capt Hendrikse was Facebook friends with two of Anni Dewani's cousins.


Concluding her ruling today, Judge Traverso said the compiled evidence from the three men already convicted was "so improbable, with so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies you cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins".

The aftermath

Dewani has never spoken publicly on the case since extradition proceedings began three weeks after his wife's murder.

The family of Anni Dewani were visibly upset as they left the courtroom today.

A family statement issued outside court said: "We feel really, really sad because we have not heard the full story. Shrien lived a double life."

  • Anni Dewani's sister and parents were in Cape Town for the trial
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