A judge in Cape Town, South Africa, on Monday threw out murder charges against a British businessman accused of conspiring to kill his wife on their honeymoon.
Deputy Judge Jeanette Traverso said the evidence fell short of what was required to prove that Shrien Dewani was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecution alleged that Dewani hired a hit man to stage a fake hijacking and kill his new wife, Anni, in the Western Cape province township of Gugulethu in 2010.
The couple were in a taxi when it was hijacked, and Anni Dewani was shot dead, her body left in the car. Shrien Dewani said he was thrown out of the car before she was shot.
Three men have been convicted and imprisoned for their part in Anni Dewani’s death: a taxi driver named Zola Tongo, who claimed Shrien Dewani paid him about $1,500 to organize the killing, and two men who hijacked the taxi. One of them, Xolile Mngeni, died in prison of a brain tumor.
Traverso said there were many contradictions in the testimony of the three jailed men, making it impossible to know what happened.
Tongo’s testimony was "so improbable, with so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies, you cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins," she said.
The Dewanis honeymooned in South Africa after a lavish wedding in India. Shrien Dewani admitted in a statement to the court that he had sex with a male prostitute, but when the prosecution sought to introduce such evidence, in a bid to show he had a motive, the judge barred evidence about his sexuality.
Anni Dewani’s family told reporters at the court that they felt devastated and let down by Traverso’s decision not to let the case proceed.
“Today we feel as a family that the justice system has failed us, and we are deeply disappointed,” said the dead woman’s sister, Ami Denborg, speaking to journalists outside the court. "We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth and all we got was more questions. We waited patiently for four years to hear what really happened to Anni and to hear the full story of what happened to our dearest little sister."
Prosecutors indicated that they had no plans to appeal the decision.
Shrien Dewani fought for several years to avoid extradition to South Africa, claiming he wouldn’t be afforded a fair trial there but was finally extradited earlier this year.
The ruling in the Dewani case follows Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius' September acquittal on a murder charge in the death of his girlfriend. Pistorius was convicted of the lesser charge of culpable homicide. A prosecution application seeking permission to appeal the acquittal is due this week.
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