SA judge denies bail for honeymoon murder suspect

AP News
Posted: Feb 25, 2011 9:11 AM
SA judge denies bail for honeymoon murder suspect

A man suspected of murdering a foreigner honeymooning in Cape Town was denied bail Friday after a magistrate said he wanted to show the world that South Africa's justice system is strong.

The prosecution had overwhelming evidence that implicated Mziwamadoda Qwabe in the murder of Anni Dewani, magistrate Gavin du Plessis said at the bail hearing. The second murder suspect, Xolile Mngeni, did not apply for bail.

Police accused Dewani's British husband, Shrien Dewani, of hiring three South Africans to kill her last year.

Dewani said gunmen attacked their vehicle during a late-night tour of an impoverished neighborhood. Their cab driver, Zola Tongo, said Shrien Dewani offered 15,000 rand (about $2,100) to each person involved, but paid only 1,000 (about $145).

Tongo was sentenced to 18 years after a confession implicating Dewani, Qwabe and Mngeni. Dewani, who denied the charges of having his Swedish wife murdered during their honeymoon in South Africa, is out on bail in Britain and is fighting extradition to South Africa.

Dewani was hospitalized Sunday afternoon in southwestern England after his sister discovered him drowsy and unresponsive in his bedroom with three empty bottles of pills nearby. He was earlier diagnosed with an acute stress disorder.

South African authorities on Thursday asked a London judge to revoke Shrien Dewani's bail after the incident.

The circumstances of the 31-year-old Dewani's apparent drug overdose were fiercely disputed and the judge ordered legal representatives from both sides to gather more information.

Ben Watson, acting on behalf of South African authorities, called it a suicide attempt and urged the court Thursday to return Dewani to police custody. He said the incident shows Dewani could fail to attend court proceedings and detaining the suspect is "necessary" for his own safety.

But Dewani's lawyers and psychiatrist said Dewani was not trying to kill himself, but instead seeking sleep. They said putting Dewani in custody would negatively impact his mental health.

The businessmen, unshaven and in sweat pants, seemed alternately sedated and anxious outside of the court _ at one point he appeared to take his own pulse, urging a family member to also feel his heart rate.

He was released on bail and must continue to report to police every day, wear an electronic tag and observe a curfew.

The couple, both of Indian descent, married in India two weeks before arriving in South Africa for their honeymoon in November.

Dewani's full extradition hearing will begin May 3, and the trial of the two murder suspects is scheduled for June 1.

Anni Dewani's father, Vinod Hindocha, attended Friday's bail hearing in Cape Town and said he was happy with how the South African government was handling the case and thanked South Africans for their support.


Associated Press Writer Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.