Honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani sits in the dock at his trial in Cape Town. File photo: Mike Hutchings

Cape Town - The trial of honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday afternoon after his defence team scored a major triumph - a ruling that emails regarding Dewani's inner turmoil about his sexual orientation were inadmissable.

In addition, shortly before the adjournment, defence advocate Francois van Zyl SC ripped to shreds the evidence of police official,George Stephanus, who recorded Dewani's statement. 

Stephanus interviewed Dewani during the early hours of November 14, 2010 at the Cape Grace Hotel just hours after his wife Anni Hindocha, whose murder he stands accused of, had been kidnapped. 

During Van Zyl's cross-examination of Stephanus, it emerged that Dewani did not read his statement and was not asked to take the prescribed oath to confirm that the statement was true and correct.

The court heard that Stephanus did not ask him to swear to the statement, even though the document was presented as an affidavit, with a "commissioner of oaths" stamp affixed to it. 

Explaining why he omitted to do so, he said: "Mr Dewani was emotional. And me asking him to say so help me God ... Where is God at that time?" 

The police official also admitted that he did not record Dewani's UK address on the statement, as police officers usually do, saying he did not even know how to spell it.  

In addition, Dewani's contact number was not recorded because, in Stephanus's view, the accused's cellphone had been stolen during the incident any way. 

It further emerged during the cross examination that Stephanus did not depose to an affidavit to record what role he played during the initial investigation and that his pocket book, in which he made notes, had gone missing. 

The time that he finished taking Dewani's statement was recorded as 4.10am and, according to Stephanus, the interview process lasted no longer than 45 minutes. 

This means that he started the interview shortly before 3.30am.However, Van Zyl put it to him that hotel CCTV footage showed Dewani moving around in the hotel at around that time - not giving his statement.Earlier today Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso ruled that the emails found on Dewani's laptop were inadmissable.

The emails, it emerged in court, contained details of an inner conflict Dewani had about marrying Anni and of making his sexual orientation known.Dewani claims that he is bisexual, but the State believes that he was a closet gay. 

Scotland Yard policeman, Mark Roberts, who was involved in the early stages of the investigation against Dewani, took the stand on Tuesday morning and started testifying about the contents of Dewani's Dell laptop, which he analysed.

Dewani allegedly used the laptop to access gay hook-up website Gaydar.net and gay fetish website Recon during his courtship with Anni.

The laptop, according to Roberts, also contained saved emails Dewani had received from an unidentified male with whom he had a sexual relationship in 2009. Dewani received 53 emails from the unidentified person from June to August 2009.

As Roberts was about to divulge details of the emails, Van Zyl objected on the basis of the relevance of the evidence Van Zyl pointed out that Dewani confided in the the unidentified friend about his fears regarding his marriage to Anni and that the friend told him that marriage was a serious commitment, which usually involved children. 

Other details, including graphic sexual content, had no relevance to the murder, Van Zyl submitted adding that the evidence was prejudicial to Dewani and his character. 

Judge Traverso pointed out to State advocate Adrian Mopp that it was not in dispute that Dewani was conflicted about marrying Anni and that he conceded interaction with men.
She ruled the evidence inadmissable and Roberts was later excused from the witness stand. 

The State's intention with Roberts, and other witnesses, was to prove that Dewani had misgivings about marrying Anni and experienced emotional turmoil as a result of his sexual orientation. 

The trial was postponed to Monday because one of the State advocates, Shareen Riley, was ill and the evidence of the next set of witnesses cannot proceed without her.

 

IOL