Dewani overdosed on tranquillisers - report
Cape Town - Intimate details of how honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani dealt with the death of his bride Anni Hindocha have emerged from a Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital report, including that he took an overdose of tranquillisers as he struggled to sleep due to flashbacks and nightmares.
But in spite of Dewani being tearful and distressed, reporting panic attacks and being startled by “sudden ambient noises”, a panel of four psychiatrists and one clinical psychologist are unanimous that he is fit to stand trial for the 2010 murder.
The report, handed to the Western Cape High Courton Friday, brings to an end more than three years of uncertainty about whether Dewani would ever stand trial. He was finally extradited from the UK in April, and has been in Valkenberg ever since.
The report goes further to say that there are no signs that Dewani suffers from clinical depression. In fact, other than the occasional tranquilliser to help him sleep, he is receiving no other medication.
On Friday the
trial was formally set down for October 6 and, according to Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock, it is expected to run until December 12.
If all goes smoothly, there could be a verdict before Christmas.
The report details how Dewani first “took to bed” a week after his wife’s funeral, experiencing flashbacks and nightmares.
It was recommended that he be admitted to a psychiatric facility, but Dewani refused and was instead managed by a psychiatrist who visited him three times a week, treating him for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It was during this period that he overdosed on tranquillisers, and had to be hospitalised.
In April 2011 he was admitted to the Priority Hospital where he was treated for delirium, “probably” caused by serotonin syndrome as a result of his medication.
After a temporary placement in another hospital, he was eventually sent to Fromeside Hospital under the UK Mental Health Act.
It was there that he developed sensitivity to ambient noises.
“In order to reduce his exposure to noise he was allowed to spend his days in a camper van, until he was transferred to Bladesview Hospital in January 2013, which was closer to his home. By this time, his depression and sensitivity to noise was improving, and he was able to engage in a variety of activities,” the report said.
During the first four months of this year, he felt much better and was able to travel to South Africa to face the charges against him.
In Cape Town, he engaged well, was articulate and often affable while being treated at Valkenberg, according to the report.
“Intermittently, he still responded to sudden ambient noises with a marked startled response, after which he sometimes would have to be reminded of what had been asked or discussed. He was often tearful, mostly distressed, and complained of experiencing panic attacks,” it said.
However, an occupational therapy assessment found Dewani functions at a high level, and employed good techniques to overcome distraction by noises.
He was also able to follow a demanding daily routine, and impressed the panel as being of superior intelligence, with perfectionist personality traits, and underlying anxiety.
The panel concluded that there were no symptoms of clinical depression, and that he was able to consult his legal representatives.
Offering glimpses into Dewani’s background, the report says the 35-year-old is the second of three children, born and raised in Bristol in the UK.
He excelled at school and participated in many extracurricular activities, representing the school for Amnesty International.
After completing his A-levels, he successfully applied to study medicine, but decided instead to teach English in Ghana, where he spent three months before returning home after he contracted malaria.
After completing his BSc at the Manchester University of Science and Technology three years later, he enrolled at the University of Warwick do his Masters. But he left after a month to take up articles at an auditing firm.
He passed the chartered accountant board exams in 2004 and, the following year, joined his brother in the family business as a financial director.
Dewani’s counsel, Francois van Zyl SC, said the defence did not dispute the recommendations of the expert panel.
Dewani will appear in court again on September 9 for a pre-trial conference.
He will remain in detention at Valkenberg after Professor Sean Kaliski, senior forensic psychiatrist, recommended that it was best that he be held at the hospital.
It is unclear which judge will preside at the trial.