Witness twist in Dewani murder case

2011-06-04 17:56

The state’s case against suspected bride killer Shrien Dewani was dealt a major blow this week with news that one of the accused hitmen in the alleged honeymoon murder plot is in a serious condition in Groote Schuur Hospital with a malignant brain tumour.

The suspect, Xolile Mngeni, 23, will not make his next court appearance on June 13 and will only be fit to stand trial for the highjacking and murder of honeymoon tourist Anni Dewani if he fully recovers from surgery next week to remove the tumour.

“Mngeni will take a while to recover,” said a source close to the case.

“His brain tumour is malignant and he is in a serious condition. Only after surgery next week will it become clear if he is fit to stand trial. The only thing that is certain is that he won’t be able to appear on June 13.” If Mngeni fails to recover, prosecutors will have a tough task proving who pulled the trigger of the 9mm Makarov pistol that killed Anni.

It will also be difficult to place co-accused hitman Mziwamadoda Qwabe (26), in the highjacked vehicle at the time when the single, fatal shot to Anni’s neck was fired, especially since Qwabe is now claiming that his confession made a few days after the November 2010 murder was extracted under torture and that he has an alibi for the night of the murder.

Mngeni – who went for another MRI brain scan at Groote Schuur late on Friday afternoon – was supposed to appear with Qwabe in the Wynberg Regional Court earlier this week.

When he failed to come up from the cells with Qwabe, a search was launched. An hour later prosecutors announced that Mngeni was ill and had been transferred from his maximum security Pollsmoor cell to the prison hospital.

Since then prosecutors and ­police have remained tight-lipped about Mngeni’s condition or whereabouts.

A City Press investigation later revealed that the authorities were unable to comment because they were totally unaware that their high-profile suspect in a sensational murder case that has garnered world headlines for almost seven months, was no longer in Pollsmoor but in a serious condition in Groote Schuur Hospital.

Neither senior investigators nor NPA prosecutors were aware that Mngeni had been missing from his cell since around May 17 when he first started complaining about ­severe headaches and behaving in a confused manner.

Furthermore, they were ­unaware that Mngeni had been ­admitted to the prison hospital for treatment and then transferred around May 19 to Groote Schuur Hospital where he underwent ­surgery to relieve a build-up of ­fluid on the brain that threatened his life.

The lack of awareness raises serious questions about the monitoring of the suspected hitman whose testimony and assistance was key to police rapidly unravelling a murder plot alleged to have been orchestrated by British care home boss Shrien Dewani.

Dewani, who denies all charges, is currently facing extradition from the UK where he is being held under the Mental Health Act at a secure mental hospital in his home city of Bristol.

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