Weekend Argus Justice Writer
Cape Town - Despite claims by the Department of Justice that honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani was being treated like any other accused, his trip to South Africa and court appearance was by no means ordinary.
In a statement, the Department of Justice confirmed that it procured a chartered plane to transport Dewani, a medical doctor, a nurse, police and members of Interpol from Bristol Airport to South Africa.
One UK private jet company said such a chartered flight could cost up to R2.5 million.
A UK flight firm said the operators would have to use an ultra long-range jet capable of making the 12-hour journey without any stops and carrying 12 to 15 people.
The department said security concerns played a role in the decision, informed by the need to ensure that the team and Dewani were secure, which “would have been difficult on a commercial flight with many passengers which had potential to compromise their security as his identity is now well known”.
In addition, his medical condition needed to be monitored and “the situation in a commercial fight had the potential to exacerbate it”, the statement said.
“We took into account the fact that there was undisputed evidence during the extradition hearing that he had displayed suicidal tendencies an the South African government did not want to take chances.
“It was there paramount that his return to the country is hazard free in order to ensure that he eventually makes that court appearance.”
For Dewani’s very first appearance in South Africa in connection with the murder charge, he was escorted to the Western Cape High Court - a move which the department described as standard procedure, when it was asked why he was not taken to a magistrates' court.
Dewani arrived in a black Hyundai van along with a convoy of several vehicles - not a white police vans usually used to transport suspects.
Shortly before 11am, members of the media were ordered to remove all camera equipment from the courtroom because photographs of Dewani during his first appearance were prohibited.
One of the press benches were reserved for Dewani's relatives.
Relatives for his wife Anni, whose murder he is accused of orchestrating in November 2010, were not present.
Outside of court, a small group of ANC Womens League protested, holding placards which read: “Justice for victims” and “Justice for Anni”.
The case which was scheduled to start at 11.30am was delayed.
Proceedings would get under way at 12.30pm, National Prosecuting Authority provincial spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said.
Dewani, who arrived around 11.20am, was still being processed at the court, he said.
The court was packed to capacity and, by 12pm, there was no space left for members of the public or media, proving that the court appearance of Dewani rivalled other high profile cases that have gone to the High Court.
Court orderlies had their hands full, ensuring that cameras were not smuggled in and that members of the media did not use mobile devices to take photographs. - IOL and Cape Argus