Date set for Anni Dewani murder trial


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The Independent Online

The trial of one of the men accused of murdering honeymooner Anni Dewani will begin on Wednesday.

Speaking at a pre-trial hearing at the Western Cape High Court in South Africa, Judge Robert Henney said he would accept no further delays in the case against Xolile Mngeni.

Mrs Dewani, 28, was shot in an apparent car hijacking while on honeymoon with her husband Shrien in Cape Town in November 2010.

Shrien Dewani, a 32-year-old care home owner from Bristol, is accused of arranging the contract killing of his wife, which he denies.

He is currently being treated by psychiatrists in Britain while he fights extradition to South Africa.

Dewani had married Swedish national Anni Hindocha in India before taking her on a honeymoon to South Africa which included a safari in the Kruger Park and a visit to Cape Town, where they stayed at the five-star Cape Grace hotel.

During an evening out, Mrs Dewani was killed by a shot in the neck after an apparent car hijacking in Gugulethu township.

The court heard today that a recent medical report confirmed Mngeni, one of two men accused of the contract killing, was fit to stand trial, even though he had a malignant brain tumour.

His lawyer Matthews Dayimani said the report concluded his client's "attentional focus" was slightly reduced.

Judge Henney said it would be costly to order transcripts of proceedings, but he would see if an exception could be made.

He suggested Mngeni sit next to his lawyer during the trial, taking notes where possible, and consult during adjournments.

Mngeni looked frail today and had to be led in through the public entrance by a policeman as the courtroom was not linked to a basement holding cell.

He leaned heavily on a walking frame, using one arm to keep a jacket wrapped around his face.

A frenzy ensued when several photographers jostled around the benches to get to him.

His trial had been set down until the end of the court term on September 21.

The prosecution originally intended calling 16 witnesses, but this is likely to be whittled down after his co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe's confessions, which implicated Mngeni.

Dayimani said he was still waiting for the witness list and media footage. The prosecution said all footage had been handed over.

Mngeni faces charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Qwabe pleaded guilty to the same charges last week as part of a plea bargain. He was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

The plea bargain offered insight into the apparent sequence of events on the night of the murder and implicated Shrien Dewani as the conspirator in a contract killing.

Qwabe said he and Mngeni agreed to the job in exchange for 15,000 rand (about £1,200). He alleged Mngeni pulled the trigger.

Shrien Dewani has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. He is being treated in the UK for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the end of July, his lawyer Claire Montgomery told Westminster Magistrates' Court that keeping her client under medical treatment in the UK for 12 months would speed up his recovery and sending him to South Africa would jeopardise it.

The hearing was adjourned to September 18 for a psychiatrist to examine Dewani and give the court more information about his condition.

Only then would a decision be made on whether he was fit to stand trial in Cape Town, the court heard.