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London - Shrien Dewani had his wife Anni murdered because he feared that if he broke off his engagement his family would disown him.
This shock assertion by lawyers for the South African government on Tuesday provided the first indication of a motive for Dewani allegedly ordering hitmen to shoot Anni dead under the cover story of a hijacking in Gugulethu on November 13 last year.
Hugo Keith QC, leading evidence for the South African government in an extradition hearing in the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court, said he would produce a witness who would say he had met Dewani in September 2009.
In April 2010, this witness, who was not named, said Dewani had told him that he was engaged or about to be engaged to Anni Hindocha and that he had to get married.
Dewani told him that, although Anni was a “nice, lovely girl whom he liked”, he couldn’t escape the engagement or he would be disowned by his family.
“He would go on to say to the witness that he needed to find a way out of it,” Keith added.
Earlier media reports claimed Dewani once paid a German “rentboy” for sex and suggestions of his homosexuality emerged again on Tuesday.
Ironically, they were brought up by Dewani’s lawyers as one of the reasons he should not be extradited.
His advocate, Clare Montgomery QC, presented evidence that conditions in South African prisons were so bad that Dewani would be at risk of violence or even death if he were sent back to South Africa.
She read from an NGO report that, because of the high prevalence of rape and of Aids infection by inmates, being imprisoned in South Africa would be a “virtual death sentence”.
She called South African prison experts Sasha Gear and Amanda Dissel, both formerly of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, to give evidence by video.
They said the risk of rape was especially high in the Western Cape prisons where Dewani would be held because of the high incidence among inmates of gang members, who had a culture of forcing certain inmates to become wyfies sexual partners of criminals, submitting to continual rape.
Gear said Dewani would be particularly vulnerable to rape because he was young, good-looking, “well-preserved”, a first-time offender unfamiliar with gang or inmate slang and culture, because he had not personally committed a crime of violence against another man, which would create respect for his manhood among inmates, because he was suffering from mental illness, and because he had been identified in reports as homosexual. But Gear added that, because the Department of Correctional Services had offered to put in place special measures to protect him, she could not give a general assessment on how much danger he would face.
On Wednesday, Judge Deon van Zyl, the Judge Inspector of Prisons, is due to testify for the South African government on why Dewani would be safe in a South African prison.
Keith said the Department of Correctional Services had given assurances that, if Dewani was extradited, he would be held while awaiting trial in the sick bay of Goodwood correctional facility.
If he were sentenced to a medium-security prison he would serve his time in Malmesbury A correctional facility and, if sentenced to a maximum-security prison, he would do his time in Brandvlei prison in Worcester.
As this was being renovated, he would in the meantime be kept in the Brandvlei medium-security facilities. He would be held in a single cell with hot and cold running water and a flush toilet.
There had been some expectation that Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle would deliver judgment this week on whether Dewani should be extradited. But he agreed with both legal teams that this week the hearing would only hear evidence on dangerous prison conditions.
Then the hearing would be adjourned until July to hear evidence for the other reasons why Dewani’s defence believes he should not be extradited that he will not get a fair trial because of the bias against him shown by South African judicial authorities and because he would not receive proper care for his mental illness.
The hearing was postponed because of Dewani’s mental illness. He is being held in a secure psychiatric facility at Fromeside Clinic, where he has been confined by court order after a violent outburst at the exclusive Priory clinic in his home town of Bristol in south-west England.
He has missed some previous court hearings because his defence team says he is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress syndrome as the result of Anni’s murder.
He appeared at the Belmarsh court on Wednesday supported by his father Prakash, sister Preyal, brother Preyen and other relatives and friends.
Montgomery argued in court that he would be better off back at Fromeside receiving treatment for his mental illness so that he would be fit to participate fully when the extradition hearing resumed.
Keith did not object so Riddle allowed him to leave after the morning session. He will not attend any more of the hearing this week.
Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, her mother, Nilam, and several other relatives and friends were in court yesterday. - Foreign Editor