Mystery over State’s Dewani witnesses

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iol news pic Dewani court may 12 SAPA Shrien Dewani, accused of plotting the murder of his wife Anni in 2010, will undergo formal evaluation. He is being treated at Valkenberg Hospital.

Cape Town -

It was lauded as a triumphant moment for the South African legal system when Shrien Dewani was finally extradited from Britain. But promises of a quick trial are starting to sound optimistic.

Justice regional head Hishaam Mohamed allayed fears that the British man accused of having his bride killed in Cape Town might not make it to the dock on Monday morning.

But Mohamed said it would be a brief appearance as the trial was set to be delayed by at least another month.

“He will now undergo formal evaluation, the details of which will be outlined in court,” he said.

Dewani is facing charges of ordering his Swedish wife’s murder during their honeymoon in Cape Town in 2010.

Since landing in South Africa last month, he has been receiving treatment at Valkenberg Hospital, a mental health facility on the banks of the Liesbeek River.

It seems his precarious mental state, which proved to be a major obstacle during protracted extradition attempts in the UK courts, will continue to be an issue in South Africa.

Lawyers in London took almost four years to get him on a plane, but the prosecution will have just 18 months to see out the trial. This was a concession made by South African lawyers during the extradition proceedings in the UK.

At his last court appearance, Dewani wore a tailored suit. His dark hair had greyed significantly since he was last in the country in the aftermath of his bride Anni’s death, and he twitched nervously in the stand, often straining to hear what Judge President John Hlophe was saying.

His appearance on Monday will take place amid a storm of speculation and tentative confirmations about the State’s witness list.

Weekend reports claimed that Leopold Leisser, a male German escort said to advertise as “The Master”, could be a key witness in the case.

According to the British newspaper the Daily Star, which was reporting on the extradition process in 2012, Leisser told police Dewani had paid him to have sex on three separate occasions.

Dewani had reportedly told Leisser he needed to “find a way out of getting married” and that he would be “disowned” by his family if he attempted to break off his engagement.

But Mohamed is keeping the witness list under wraps and declined to comment on the escort’s possible inclusion in the list.

He said that so-called sources within the National Prosecuting Authority who were found guilty of leaking sensitive information would be summarily removed from their positions.

However, Anni’s father Vinod Hindocha said he was almost certain Leisser would make an appearance.

“Look, I can’t confirm this 100 percent – at least not officially. But I believe he will be questioned,” Hindocha said in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Anni’s cousin Sneha, who Vinod Hindocha described as being like a sister to his murdered daughter, would also take the stand.

According to the British tabloid the Daily Mail, the pair had swopped despairing messages before Anni’s wedding. She had told her cousin: “I don’t want to marry him… I’m going to be unhappy for the rest of my life… One cannot even hug him… We have nothing in common.”

In another text she reportedly wrote: “Want to cry myself to death.”

But while it is suspected Dewani was forced into his marriage, Hindocha said that was not the case for his daughter.

“I told her to live her life, she could be with anyone she wanted… They dated for 18 months and she made the decision to marry him.”

Hindocha said he would not be coming to South Africa yet, and was sitting tight until the prosecution was able to give him a definite trial date.

He said he would then fly to Cape Town from Sweden with the rest of his family.

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Cape Argus

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