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Dewani murder suspects say police tortured them for confession

Posted by on February 18, 2011 0 Comment

London, Feb 18 (IANS) Two South African nationals, accused in the carjack murder of Indian-origin woman Anni Dewani during her honeymoon in Cape Town, have now claimed that the police tortured them for their confessions.

Mzwamadoda Qwabe, 26, said he was punched and kicked as he was arrested, then beaten with a heavy torch before he signed his confession, the Daily Telegraph reported.

In the confession, he said he was told by the couple’s taxi driver “the husband (Shrien Dewani) wanted the wife killed and (we) had to make it look like a carjacking and robbery”.

His account was similar to that given to police by Zola Tongo, the taxi driver, who testified in court that he and his accomplices were paid 15,000 rand ($2,100) by Shrien, 31, a businessman from Bristol, to kill Anni.

Tongo was also able to lead police to the casing for the bullet used in the murder, and the murder weapon itself.

Another accused Xolile Mngeni, 23, has alleged he was suffocated with a plastic bag before signing a statement admitting his involvement in the killing.

The 28-year-old Anni, an engineer from Sweden, was found dead on the back seat of the taxi the day after the attack Nov 13. She had been shot once in the neck.

Her husband, Shrien, is now facing extradition to South Africa to face charges of organising the murder – a claim he strongly denies.

Qwabe’s lawyer, Thabo Nogemane, said his client had an alibi and had nothing to do with what happened.

“I am instructed that some unknown police officer assaulted him by means of a big torch. He was hit all over his body. He said the statement was a suggestion put to him by the police,” he told The Guardian.

“They already had the allegations so they told him: ‘Just sign here.’ I wouldn’t refer to it as a confession, just a statement.”

Vusi Tshabalala, lawyer for Mngeni, said his client had also been abused and suggested police resorted to “irregular methods” because of the pressure they were under to solve the high-profile case.

“In the process of interrogating him, police would physically assault him with fists and use a plastic bag to suffocate him. He was frightened,” he said.

Swedish-born Anni’s uncle Ashok said the slow progress of the judicial process was “torture”.

“It’s like salt in the wounds that opened up with her death. We wake up in the mornings thinking of Anni and by the end of the day we’re still waiting for answers. We need closure,” he said.

“There is no joy left in our family. It must be the same for the Dewanis. Why doesn’t he just end everyone’s suffering, including his own, by voluntarily getting on a plane to South Africa? That is my big question at the moment.”

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