Dewani 'needed way out', extradition hearing told

South African police want to extradite Shrien Dewani, 31, from Bristol, for his alleged role in the death of his wife Anni

An extradition hearing has been told a man accused of ordering his wife's murder on their honeymoon "needed a way out" of the marriage.

A barrister for the South African government said a witness had spoken of two meetings with Shrien Dewani, 31.

The South African authorities want to extradite Mr Dewani, from Bristol, to face charges.

His bride, Anni, 28, was shot when the couple's taxi was apparently hijacked in Cape Town last November.

The hearing, at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London, was told that the witness recalled having first met the care home owner in September 2009.

Hugo Keith QC, representing the South African authorities, said: "Dewani told (the witness) in April 2010 how he was engaged and had to get married.

"He said although she was a nice, lovely girl who he liked, he could not break out of the engagement because he would be disowned by his family.

"He went on to say to the witness he needed to find a way out of it."

'Vulnerable position'

Mr Dewani, who denies any wrongdoing, is on bail but is being held at a mental health hospital in Bristol.

After attending the start of the hearing, he was excused on medical grounds and was returned to the clinic.

An expert on South Africa's prison system told the court Mr Dewani would be at risk of sexual violence if he was extradited.

Sasha Gear, from Johannesburg's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said: "He's likely to be very vulnerable to sexual violence because of certain of his characteristics.

"One is that he's not an experienced criminal... He would lack street credentials that are required to be respected in prison and the lack of which can put someone in a vulnerable position.

"He's unfamiliar with the local reality of the place he's likely to be incarcerated in, the slang used, which makes him less likely to be able to defend himself."

Bullet in neck

Mrs Dewani was found dead in the back of the abandoned vehicle with a bullet wound to her neck, after the apparent hijacking.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo had taken the newlyweds to the deprived township.

Tongo originally claimed his vehicle was held up and he and Mr Dewani were ejected before Mrs Dewani was driven away and killed.

But in a later plea bargain, the taxi driver - who was jailed for 18 years for admitting his role in the murder - claimed Mr Dewani offered him cash to arrange the killing.

Mr Dewani is said to be suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The three-day extradition hearing is split into two parts, with further time allowed for a psychiatric report on Mr Dewani to be carried out.

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