A South African judge has acquitted British millionaire businessman Shrien Dewani of murdering his bride on their honeymoon, saying the state had not adequately made the case against him.
Judge Jeannette Traverso said the prosecutors’ arguments had “fallen far below” the level needed to secure a conviction, paving the way for Mr Dewani to walk free without mounting a defence.
“The application is granted, the accused is found not guilty on this charge,” Ms Traverso told a packed courtroom.
The ruling is a blow to the reputation of South Africa’s state prosecutors, coming after a lengthy and costly battle to extradite Mr Dewani from Britain.
Mr Dewani’s lawyers applied for his discharge at the end of the state’s case, arguing that the evidence against him was so weak he should be acquitted.
Ms Traverso agreed, giving a scathing view of key state witnesses.
She said evidence given by taxi driver Zola Tonga that implicated Mr Dewani in a murder plot was “highly improbable”, while a prosecution lawyer was described as a “self-confessed liar”.
Prosecutors had accused Mr Dewani, 34, of hiring hitmen to kill his 28-year-old Swedish bride Anni on their 2010 Cape Town honeymoon in a staged hijacking because he is a gay man who felt trapped into marriage by family pressures.
Mr Dewani said he was bisexual and loved Anni.