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LONDON: Honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani’s bail was relaxed yesterday by a UK court which was told he was now a “husk” of a man who spent most of his days sitting in a disused camper van in hospital grounds.
Psychiatrists for the South African government and the Dewani family agreed it was better for him to stay at a more relaxed institution because the current one was too noisy with Dewani suffering from “hyper-arousal” due to the slamming of doors and jangling of keys.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday his lawyer Clare Montgomery said Dewani could not travel by car.
“He cannot travel by car because he has a severe reaction, he doesn’t want to get into a travelling car or go outside. He doesn’t even want to go to the shops on his own. In his current state it is unthinkable he would be able to plan an escape, let alone effect one.”
Dewani did not attend the bail hearing, staying at the Fromeside Clinic in Bristol where he is sectioned under the UK’s Mental Health Act.
Psychiatrists Dr Paul Cantrell and Dr Ian Cumming both said he was recovering slowly from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder but would improve quicker if he was allowed to move to the quieter Blaise View mental hospital in Bristol.
The packed courtroom which included his family and his murdered wife Anni’s relatives was told Shrien, 32, still suffered flashbacks to the moment the couple were supposedly hijacked at gunpoint in Gugulethu.
Cantrell said: “His depression has moved to the moderate range, albeit in the lower range of that range in the borderlands between severe and moderate. But I’m clear that his post-traumatic street disorder remains in the severe range. That PTSD has mutated over time and there are different aspects of it that now incapacitate him but the most difficult aspect is his hyper-arousal which makes him highly sensitive to noise and now very clearly smell – something akin to the smell of the breath of the man that is burned into his brain, who was holding a gun to his head.”
However, South African lawyer Hugo Keith said Dewani “didn’t help himself” at his current hospital, Fromeside: “He is a product of his own medical situation. He sometimes actively discourages treatment, is rude and discourteous to staff and is also critical and dismissive.”
He added: “He spends a lot of his time in a camper van in a car park with members of his family, either praying or playing on his computer.”
District Judge Howard Riddle agreed to vary Dewani’s bail to allow him to stay at either hospital on condition he continues treatment and is only allowed to leave with the permission of his doctors and accompanied by a nominated person.
His bail surety remained at £250 000, police continue to hold his passport and he remained under curfew from 10pm to 6am.
District Judge Howard Riddle said there were concerns about Dewani self-harming and absconding but it was “in the public interest for Mr Dewani to get better”. He agreed that Dewani’s mental condition would be reviewed again next April ahead of a provisional full extradition hearing on July 1.
Outside court Anni’s uncle, Ashok Hindocha, said the wait until next July would be “eight months of torture”.
He added: “We accept the court’s decision today. We know these things take time and British justice has taken too much time.”
Rodney de Kock, Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions, also acknowledged the delay. Outside court he said: “We accept the court’s decision today and we know that this is going to take time. The court listened to the medical evidence and the important aspect of the ruling is that Mr Dewani is given the opportunity to get better.”