Dewani too ill now for trial, court told

2011-07-20 00:00

LONDON — Shrien Dewani is not competent to admit or deny guilt in a court of law, the Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court heard yesterday.

He will have to be assessed again by medical specialists, but only in six months’ time, before a court in England will be able to decide whether he should be extradited to South Africa, neuropsychiatrist Professor Michael Kopelman told the court.

Kopelman is a witness for the South African authorities, who are asking for Dewani to be extradited to South Africa to face charges of conspiring to murder his wife, Anni Hindocha.

Kopelman testified that psychiatrists can give no indication of when Dewani — who is severely depressed and suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome — will have recovered sufficiently to be able to appear in court, but his “optimistic” opinion is that, with treatment, it could be within six months.

Dewani’s treatment so far has been undermined by a negative reaction to anti-depressants and a vitamin D deficiency, as well as increased levels of a blood enzyme known as creatine kinase, which means that medication could be dangerous.

Lawyer Clare Montgomery QC, for Dewani, put it to Kopelman that there is no indication that Dewani is deliberately trying not to get better.

He has not received any such information, said Kopelman, but added, “I cannot exclude the possibility that there could be an element of manipulation”.

Kopelman has seen Dewani twice and has had access to all his medical records. During his first visit, in April, Dewani displayed classic symptoms of paranoia.

He thought his food was being poisoned and ate only what his family brought him. He would not take any medicine given to him by a particular nurse.

He also heard voices in the corridor and ran out, but there was no one.

Kopelman confirmed to lawyer Hugo Keith QC, for the South African authorities, that during his visit Dewani was able to inform him fully about his medical background.

Keith put it to Kopelman that Dewani spoke of his relationship with his wife and previous medical problems and the impact they had on their relationship. “He told me that there were fertility problems,” Kopelman replied.

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