Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dewani ‘may be faking it’

iol pic briton_shrien_dewani
Shrien Dewani.
Briton Shrien Dewani, who is suspected of orchestrating the hijack and murder of his bride of two weeks, Anni, in Cape Town in November last year, is probably faking a meltdown to stall his extradition, according to a local psychologist.
Last week celebrity spin doctor Max Clifford, who is on Dewani’s payroll, told the presiding judge at the start of extradition proceedings at the City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court that his client was medically unfit to attend court.
Chief magistrate Howard Riddle heard that Dewani was suffering from a “depressive adjustment disorder” and “acute stress disorder”. The name of the psychiatrist or psychologist who compiled the report submitted to court has not been released.
However, according to highly regarded Durban clinical psychologist Francois de Marigny, it is “highly unlikely” that either of the diagnoses would apply in Dewani’s case.
De Marigny, who is also experienced in forensic psychology, is frequently asked to present expert testimony in court regarding the mental state of prisoners.
“According to the most recent diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, neither diagnosis seems logical in this instance. While you can get adjustment disorder with a depressed mood, an exclusionary criterion is bereavement.
“Usually with adjustment disorder it needs to have occurred within three months of a significant stressor, and lasts no longer than six months.
“The criteria for a diagnosis of acute stress disorder are: a traumatic event involving confrontation during which the patient was threatened with death or serious injury, provoking feelings of helplessness or horror, numbing, detachment and depersonalisation. It lasts a minimum of two days, and a maximum of four weeks. It occurs within four weeks of the traumatic event, which clearly does not apply to Dewani.”
De Marigny said that it would make sense to screen Dewani to ascertain whether he was malingering.
“There are standardised psychological assessments which would accurately predict if he is feigning mental illness.”
A State advocate who can not be named for professional reasons said: “It is literally mind-boggling how many variants of bogus physical and mental disorders are presented to the court as reasons why accused parties cannot attend proceedings. It is then up to the court to sift out the charlatans.”
Independent advocate Pingla Hemraj said Dewani’s excuse was the basic “I’m too sick to put in an appearance” defence.
“It is not unusual to find an accused person claiming ill health. He is very clever to be starting a pattern of alleged ill health so early on. It is difficult to say at this juncture whether he will succeed in his bid” (to remain on extended bail). - Sunday Tribune