Sending Dewani to SA ‘may be kind’

2013-07-03 17:01

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It may be a “kind thing” to return honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani to South Africa sooner rather than later, a London court has heard.

“It could be six months, then another six months, then on and on,” psychiatrist Dr Ian Cumming said today, the British Press Association reported.

“It could make things worse and could be better to get on with it. Actually it may be a kind thing for him to actually get on.”

Cumming visited South Africa and had been reassured that Dewani would be admitted to a general ward at Valkenberg Hospital in Cape Town, rather than a unit where people were sent by the courts.

He was confident the standard of Dewani’s ongoing medical treatment would be “robust” and would not drop once he left Britain.

“The receiving hospital there will prepare themselves very well,” said Cumming.

“There will be exchange of information and reports and a handover. It is likely a nurse will accompany him from the UK to South Africa.

“I think they would make it as robust as possible. They would not stop whatever medication he is on. That would be bad practice and they would not do that.”

Dewani (33) who has depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, is accused of orchestrating the death of his 28-year-old wife Anni. She was shot as the newlywed couple travelled in a minibus taxi on the outskirts of Cape Town in November 2010.

Dewani is facing extradition to South Africa for her murder, in which he denies any involvement.

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London heard that, in 2011, Dewani tried to take an overdose, but since then had not spoken directly about self-harm or suicide.

Cumming said Dewani’s attitude towards suicide was that “he would not be bothered if he was dead” rather than saying he would kill himself.

He was “evasive” about these questions, but did not seem to have active plans on the matter.

Dewani’s post-traumatic stress was severe, his depressive illness was moderate to severe, and his current risk of self-harm was real and significant, but not immediate, said Cumming.

He had received treatment for his mental condition since his wife’s death, most recently at two units near Bristol. The place where he was currently being treated seemed to be a “protective mechanism for him”, Cumming said.

Previously, Dewani’s lawyers expressed concerns that he would be a high suicide risk if he returned to South Africa, and that his human rights could be breached because of the risk of violent and sexual assaults in jail, and of contracting HIV.

The South African authorities said, if he was found not to be mentally ill, he would be given a single cell in prison to reduce the risk of attack.

Travel arrangements to get Dewani back to South Africa would involve “a lot of logistics and planning” and perhaps even sedation. This “would not be ideal” but, according to Cumming, such arrangements would be possible.

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