Dewani needs another year, court told

2012-07-31 18:46
Shrien Dewani (File, AFP)

Shrien Dewani (File, AFP)

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London - Honeymoon murder-accused Shrien Dewani needs a year to recover from depression before facing extradition proceedings, a British court heard on Tuesday.

His lawyer Clare Montgomery told the Westminster Magistrate's Court that the process had been hanging over her client like "the sword of Damocles" and he needed "a period of calm", reported the British Press Association.

Dewani, 32, stands accused of plotting his wife Anni's murder in Cape Town in November 2010.

He is being treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle adjourned the hearing to 18 September for a psychiatrist, employed by the South African government, to examine Dewani and give the court more information about his condition before making any other decision.

Montgomery said keeping Dewani under medical treatment in Britain for 12 months would speed up his recovery rather than jeopardise it by sending him to South Africa.

According to his psychiatrist, he was making a slow recovery, but one damaging factor was his "constant awareness of the court proceedings", said Montgomery.

She said the mental health tribunal reviewing the report of Dewani's section order - which keeps him in hospital treatment until May 2013 - confirmed his mental condition.

She said Dewani was taking anti-depressants on the advice of his psychiatrist, who believed his depression and PTSD were of moderate severity and had discernibly decreased.

However, there was still the real risk that he may commit suicide, the court heard, and he was unable "to give an account of himself", possibly because he could not remember the crucial events of November 2010.

"This is associated with the post-traumatic stress disorder," Montgomery said.

Dewani’s 28-year-old wife, who was from Sweden, was shot when a taxi the couple was travelling in was hijacked in Gugulethu, on the outskirts of Cape Town.

She was found dead in the back of the abandoned vehicle with a bullet wound to her neck, after taxi driver Zola Tongo drove the newlyweds to the impoverished area.

He and Dewani were ejected by the hijackers before she was driven away and killed.

Tongo, who has admitted to his part in the crime, claimed in a plea agreement with prosecutors that Dewani ordered the hijacking and paid for a "hit" on his wife.

The prosecution asked for a replacement psychiatrist - who could refuse - to be instructed to examine Dewani, but magistrate Riddle requested that the original psychiatrist be asked to reconsider and, if he would not, to be asked why he had changed his mind.

In March, the High Court temporarily halted Dewani’s extradition because of his poor mental health.

Sir John Thomas, the president of the Queen's Bench Division, and Justice Ouseley, ruled it was "unjust and oppressive" to send him to South Africa straight away.

They rejected claims that he should not be extradited on human rights grounds and said it was in the interests of justice that he be extradited "as soon as he is fit".

Ashok Hindocha, the victim’s uncle, said after the hearing that his family desperately needed answers and believed they would get "closure", "the sooner the better".

"I don’t know how much longer the family members can take this pressure psychologically," Hindocha was quoted as saying by the British Press Association.

Hindocha said the family wanted a second psychiatrist to examine Dewani.

"We hope on 18 September we will have some answers."

- SAPA
Read more on:    anni hindocha  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  uk  |  honeymoon hijacking
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