Handcuffed: The husband accused of honeymoon bride's murder and 'plotting an earlier killing in South Africa'
By Paul Harris and Tom Kelly
Last updated at 11:59 AM on 9th December 2010
- Businessman is accused of hiring two hitmen to target his wife Anni
- He denies 'ludicrous' allegations and is desperate to clear his name
- Head of South African opposition: 'He must be extradited'
Millionaire businessman Shrien Dewani leaves Westminster Magistrates' Court, where South African authorities blocked his bail application
The astonishing claims were made in Cape Town by the taxi driver who alleges he was hired by Shrien Dewani to organise his bride’s death.
Zola Tongo was convinced Mr Dewani had earlier ‘arranged for someone to be killed in a fake hijacking’, Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told.
The court heard Mr Dewani withdrew £800 from a Cape Town cashpoint on the eve of his wife’s murder last month.
Together with £200 he withdrew a few days earlier, it added up to 10,000 rand (£1,000) used to ‘pay for the assassination of his wife’, the court was told.
The 30-year-old bridegroom faces extradition to South Africa after being charged with conspiracy to murder his wife Anni on November 13 just two weeks after the couple married.
He was granted bail yesterday on condition his family provide a £250,000 surety and he is electronically tagged.
But the decision was over-ridden before he could walk free after representatives of the South African government lodged an appeal.
Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: ‘Either Mr Dewani over a period of time plotted the murder of his wife or he is one of the tragic victims of this incident.
‘It is clear there is evidence that has been put before me and on the face of it, and I put it no higher than that, evidence on which a trial could evidently proceed.’
But he added there was ‘a real possibility the defendant would be acquitted in due course’.
Mr Dewani, a care home owner from Bristol, will appear before the High Court – possibly today – where a more senior judge will decide if he can be granted bail.
His wife, 28, was shot dead after two gunmen ambushed the couple’s cab as they were driven through an impoverished township to see the ‘real Africa’.
The killers were allegedly organised by Tongo. Both he and Mr Dewani were released unharmed in the attack.
As part of a plea bargain, the driver later told police he had arranged the killing at Mr Dewani’s instigation.
Tongo said Mr Dewani appeared to know what he was doing, barrister Ben Watson, representing the South African authorities, told the court.
Shrien Dewani's father, Prakash, leaves the court after hearing that his son has been remanded in custody as the South African authorities fight to extradite him
Anni Dewani's cousin leaves Westminster Magistrates' Court. Shrien Dewani has been accused of conspiring to murder his wife while on honeymoon near Cape Town in November
Murdered: Shrien Dewani (left) is accused of involvement in the death of his wife Anni
‘He said the man said he had previously arranged for someone to be killed in a fake hijacking in South Africa.’
Mr Watson added: ‘From the outset investigators were puzzled by the events and also suspicious of the accounts supplied by Mr Dewani and Mr Tongo.
‘Firstly they considered it strange the couple did not make use of the airport to hotel shuttle service to the 5-star Cape Grace where they were staying. They were suspicious that neither of the two men were injured while the victim had been brutally killed.’
Yesterday relatives of the wedding couple sat just a few feet apart in the courtroom.
The last time they were together like this was at a colourful Indian wedding in Mumbai.
As the first stage of the legal wrangle got under way, all the newlyweds’ relatives could do was to listen in silence.
Mr Dewani was led in by four security guards. He was unshaven and wearing a hooded sports top with a crest on the front and a number 8 on the back. He spoke only once during the hour long hearing, to give his name, date of birth and address.
His lawyer described him as ‘devastated’; his demeanour appeared to confirm it.
Murdered: Anni Dewani was shot in a carjacking in Cape Town
He had led an ‘exemplary’ life, the court was told, came from a good family, had a university education and worked hard for his living.
His barrister Clare Montgomery QC said anyone who knew the couple would be in no doubt they had ‘very strong feelings for one another’.
Mr Watson opposed bail saying Mr Dewani had access to large amounts of cash and was liable to flee because he faced life in a South African jail.
Allegations: Taxi driver Zola Tongo at the South African court yesterday
But Miss Montgomery described the evidence against him as ‘flimsy’, suggesting the charge had a political motivation.
‘It was readily apparent that the murder of Mrs Dewani would seriously damage the interests of South Africa if it emerged it was merely the work of a local gang,’ she said.
She said Mr Dewani had never visited South Africa before, so could not have arranged any previous attack.
Mr Dewani walked into Bristol police station on Tuesday night after he was accused in a South African court of ordering his wife’s death by Tongo. Tongo was sentenced to 18 years for his part in the killing, reduced from 25 years.
Two other men accused of the murder are due to stand trial in South Africa next year.
Last night, Anni’s sister Ami Denborg said she ‘does not know what to believe’ following the arrest of Mr Dewani.
‘It’s really difficult for the family to hear this, for everyone in this situation, and all we want is the truth.’
She added: ‘Shrien was such a nice guy and it’s just hard to believe.
Vinod Hindocha Dewani, Anni's father, wept in the court as he clutched a photo of his murdered daughter
The car in which Anni Dewani was found murdered is towed from the crime scene last month
SOUTH AFRICAN POLITICIANS AND MEDIA FURIOUS OVER SUGGESTIONS DEWANI IS INNOCENTBy DAN NEWLING
The arrest of Shrien Dewani risked turning into a full-scale diplomatic spat today as one of South Africa’s most senior politicians insisted that the Briton ‘must be extradited’.
Helen Zille, who is leader of the country’s main opposition party, appeared to believe the South African police’s claim that Mr Dewani arranged the murder of his wife, saying: ‘I can’t believe there is such evil in the world.’
Referring to the allegation that Mr Dewani employed three South Africans to carry out the ‘hit’ for him, Mrs Zille went on: ‘This evil appears to have been compounded by the abuse of South Africans.’
And reacting to accusations from Mr Dewani’s spokesman that the Briton is being ‘set up’ for the crime, Mrs Zille said: ‘If Max Clifford is telling the truth, his client will not hesitate to submit to cross-examination in a South African court of law.
‘I would prefer to believe a judge than Max Clifford. His comments about South Africa are outrageous. For him to try and tarnish our image enrages every South African.’
‘Shrien must be extradited,’ she added, ‘we must get to the truth of this gruesome murder.’
In speaking out so forcefully, Miss Zille tapped into popular anger towards Mr Dewani, coupled with a growing sense of relief that someone other than a South African is allegedly responsible for the crime.
Today practically all of South Africa’s newspapers accused Mr Dewani of trying to ‘exploit’ the country’s sky-high crime rate by arranging to have his wife murdered here.
The country’s powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions said: ‘The murder appears to have been planned on the assumption that hijacking and murder are believed to be so commonplace that it would be easy to stage a murder and then claim it was another normal criminal act.
‘Let us hope that the swift and efficient way in which this case has been dealt with, and the fact that it is now becoming clear that it was planned by a non-South African, will help to restore the country’s reputation to the levels we achieved during and after the World Cup.’