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The family of murdered honeymoon bride Anni Dewani have mounted a fight back against British forensic experts’ claims that the South African police case against Shrien Dewani was weak.
Just two weeks before a court will decide if Dewani is mentally fit to stand trial in South Africa for murder, Anni’s family, the Hindochas, have hit out at the experts hired by the BBC’s Panorama programme who poked holes in the local authorities’ investigation into Dewani.
The Panorama programme was based on “secret police files”. The experts concluded that there were “fundamental mistakes in the police investigation”.
However, the Hindochas are questioning the accuracy of their comments, particularly the forensic and ballistic aspects of it as none of them visited South Africa, or inspected the rental vehicle in which the crime took place, the gun that was used or the bullet casing.
They argue the experts had been given “selected” information by the programme makers.
“What basis did these experts use to come to their conclusion and why so close to a court ruling?” Ashok Hindocha, Anni’s uncle, asked on Thursday.
“The family is angry at why you would do a programme before the trial. This case should be trialled in court where people can be put on the stand and where experts can be cross examined,” he said.
His concerns are shared by South Africa’s pre-eminent forensic scientist, Dr David Klatzow, who on Thursday said that forensic experts should always look at the hard evidence when making opinions.
“It is not a smart thing as a forensic investigator not to look at the hard evidence. You should always look at the hard evidence.
“If you comment on a document it should always be with a caveat that you are looking at (the) document and that you might change your view when you look at the crime scene,” he said.
Klatzow said that while he did not know exactly what documents or crime scene photographs the experts were given by Panorama, the first choice for forensic experts would be to visit the actual crime scene.
“Which would you prefer, an evening out with a beautiful girl or an evening out with a photograph of a beautiful girl?
“A photograph is always second best. It will illustrate what you can see but there is nothing like seeing it and touching it.”
Last month the BBC’s Panorama aired a one-hour documentary, Honeymoon Murder: Who Killed Anni?, which questioned if Dewani really masterminded his new bride’s murder in November 2010.
The National Prosecuting Authority is investigating how the BBC obtained the police docket. They believe the information may have come from copies of the police docket.
One of the experts used by the BBC were the firm Forensic Firearms Consultancy who provided their opinion on the ballistics used in the Dewani murder.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Angela Shaw, a director of Forensic Firearms Consultancy, said they were commissioned by Panorama to review the firearms and gunshot residue they had obtained.
They had reviewed witness statements, photos, video evidence, expert statements, oral testimony and produced a report.
Her colleague, Mark Mastaglio, told Panorama a wound in Anni’s hand suggested she was shot at close range during a struggle, contrary to police claims that she was killed intentionally.
Hindocha questioned the independence of the experts.
“They are not independent. They are dependent on the BBC to pay them and to come to a certain conclusion. Why would the gun just go off? Why would somebody, two big men in a car, need a loaded gun to scare one little girl? It does not make sense,” he said.
“Even when her husband was in the car and the car was bumping and when the gun was apparently pointed at this head it did not go off. We really question the findings of these experts.”
The Hindocha family will be in London on October 22 for Dewani’s appeal against the decision to extradite him.
“The South African authorities have given assurances that he will be looked after. I see no reason for (the application to be turned down),” he said.
Shaw and Mastaglio did not return calls from the Daily News on Thursday.