The man alleged to have fired the fatal shot that killed Anni Dewani today denied murdering her at the start of the trial in Cape Town.
Meanwhile Shrien Dewani, 32, who is accused of ordering the hit on his new wife while on honeymoon in Cape Town 21 months ago, remains in Britain, fighting extradition.
He has maintained his innocence since the couple were held up at gunpoint while taking a night time taxi ride through the township of Gugulethu to see some of “the real Africa”. While the driver Zola Tongo and the groom were forced from the car unharmed, 28-year-old Mrs Dewani’s body was discovered the next day in the abandoned car in another township.
Today Xolile Mngeni, 29, denied murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition at the Cape High Court.
He is the only one of Mr Dewani’s co-accused to stand trial, after the other two defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution, implicating the Bristol businessman.
Today Mr Mngeni’s lawyer Qalisile Dayimani insisted the onus was on the state to “prove each and every allegation”. The accused appeared calm, sitting next to his lawyer as he listened and took notes.
Last week his co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 27, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in jail. He claimed Mr Mngeni fired the single fatal shot from the front passenger seat after they had been recruited by the taxi driver on the groom’s orders.
His testimony concurred with that of driver Tongo, who was sentenced to 18 years after pleading guilty and alleging that Mr Dewani offered him 15,000 rand (£1,200) to arrange the killing.
In a separate hearing last week, Mr Mngeni was declared fit to stand trial despite a malignant tumour which means he struggles to concentrate for long periods and has blackouts as well as seizures.
The trial before Judge Robert Henney is expected to last four weeks with more than 32 witnesses scheduled.
“We are hopeful that in the end he (Mr Dewani) will come to South Africa and answer to the allegations put to him,” prosecuting authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila told AFP.
Last week Anni Dewani’s uncle Ashok Hindocha said they were still hoping to find out the whole truth about how she died.
”The way we feel is that we are going through legal torture. It is extremely stressful for the family,” he said, adding: “I would have been much, much happier if all the accused were in South Africa and cross-examination took place and the truth could be found. To us, Anni is still not dead.”
Mr Dewani is due before Westminster Magistrates' Court on 18 September when the chief magistrate Howard Riddle will be given an update on his psychiatric hearing condition.
Last month his lawyers argued that he needed at least a year to recover from depression and post-traumatic stress before facing the South African courts.
In March, the High Court ruled that it would be ”unjust and oppressive“ to extradite the husband to South Africa because of his illness but that he should be sent ”as soon as he is fit“.
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