London - Honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani has considered returning to South Africa to fight a murder charge as his mental health improves, a London court heard on Monday.
The South African authorities have pulled out “every stop” to enable the return of Dewani to Cape Town to face trial, Barrister Hugo Keith, for the South African government, told the extradition hearing.
Western Cape prosecutors, health department and prison officials had agreed in a “special undertaking” that he would be offered the best psychiatric help if ordered to return.
Keith said: “Nobody is going to take any chances on Dewani’s mental health.”
Dewani, 33, did not attend the opening of the extradition hearing and remained in Bristol where he is receiving ongoing treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, his father, Prakash, and brother, Preyen, were in Court 1, as were the family of his wife, Anni, who was found shot dead in the back of a taxi in Gugulethu township, outside Cape Town, in November 2010.
Dewani denies any involvement in her murder, but the South African government wants him to return to face trial after claims he paid men to kill her while on the Cape Town leg of their honeymoon.
On Monday, Keith outlined the case against Dewani and the protracted extradition hearings. Keith said Dewani’s health had “substantially improved” after treatment at a mental hospital.
He said Dewani no longer mentioned self-harm or suicide and has suggested a return to Cape Town to fight the allegations against him.
At an earlier hearing it was revealed that Dewani’s legal team has written to the prosecuting authorities in the Western Cape saying he could return voluntarily, subject to a number of conditions.
However, the offer was never acted upon and the conditions were not revealed.
Keith said: “His medical condition has significantly and substantially improved as the result of the administration of drugs and due to the grounding techniques and coping therapies.
“In the words of the doctors treating him, Dewani is far better. He will recover in time; there is no question he won’t make a recovery.”
Keith said if a British court ordered his return, he would be accompanied on a flight by two detectives and a mental health nurse.
He would be taken to the high court in Cape Town and placed in a single cell, charged, and then brought that day before a high court judge who would decide on custody or bail.
A decision would then be taken where to place him, but he would be given the appropriate psychiatric help.
Dewani’s legal team had previously claimed he would be a suicide risk if extradited and that his human rights could be violated if held in prison custody because of the risk of gang violence or sexual assault.
Dewani was ordered to return to South Africa in 2011 but his return was halted by the high court in London in March last year on the grounds that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite him immediately on health grounds.
Also in court were Western Cape prosecutors Rodney de Kock and Adrian Mopp, Anni’s mother Nilam and father Vinod Hindocha, who travelled from their home in Sweden on Sunday, and her brother and sister, Anish and Amy.
The hearing, which is expected to last five days, continues on Tuesday.