Weekend Argus Justice Writer
Cape Town - Honeymoon murder accused Shrien Prakash Dewani appeared nervous and confused as he made his first appearance in a South African court this morning to face charges that he orchestrated the murder of his wife Anni in November 2010.
He was immaculately dressed in a black suit and tie, and appeared older than in previously-captured photographs, his hair greyer than before.
Occasionally he twitched and looked around courtroom one.
The appearance in the Western Cape High Court lasted a brief few minutes.
Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock, who was assisted by advocates Adrian Mopp and Shareen Riley, told the court that the State and defence had reached an agreement that Dewani be "transferred in custody" to a single occupancy room in the general psychiatric unit at Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital for further medical treatment.
Defence advocate Francois van Zyl SC confirmed the agreement.
According to the indictment, Dewani faces charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, murder and obstructing the administration of justice.
In addition, he has also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, kindapping and robbery with aggravating circumstcnes in terms of the Riotous Assembly Act.
Judge President John Hlophe postponed the case to May 12.
Despite claims by the Department of Justice that Dewani would be treated like any other accused, his trip to South Africa and court appearance was by no means ordinary.
In a statement, the department 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 therefore paramount that his return to the country be 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 one of the white police vans usually used to transport suspects.
He was formally charged and processed at the court building instead of the police station.
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.
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.
The removal of the cameras resulted in heated arguments between the media and orderlies
One of the press benches were reserved for Dewani's relatives.
No less than eight members of the family arrived at court, including his brother and parents.
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 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.
After the court appearance members of the media were told to leave the court building for security reasons.
Emotions ran high outside the building as members of the public questioned why Dewani was sent to Valkenberg, saying he should be held at Pollsmoor. - IOL