Honeymoon murder: South African man gets life sentence for killing Anni Dewani

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 18:44 hrs

Cape Town: A South African judge sentenced the triggerman in the 2010 honeymoon slaying of a bride to life in prison on Wednesday, calling the shooter "a merciless and evil person" who deserved the maximum punishment for his crime. Prosecutors say the newlywed's British husband orchestrated the November 2010 killing.

Judge Robert Henney did not hold back his contempt while sentencing Xolile Mngeni for the killing of 28-year-old Anni Dewani. Henney said that the shooter showed no remorse.

"He had no regard to her right to freedom, dignity, and totally disregarded and showed no respect to her right to life by brutally killing her with utter disdain," Henney said.

Mngeni, who had surgery to remove a brain tumour while facing trial, at times sat with his face resting on the bannister of the dock on top of his crossed arms. Dewani's family members, wearing black clothes and with pictures of the beautiful young woman pinned above their left breasts, stared at him.

In August, Mngeni's alleged accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to charges over the killing, receiving a 25-year prison sentence. Zola Tongo, the taxi driver that police say husband Shrien Dewani asked to plot the killing, earlier received an 18-year prison sentence. Both Tongo and Qwabe have said Dewani wanted it to look like he wasn't involved his wife's slaying and they planned to have the attack look like a carjacking in Cape Town's impoverished Gugulethu township.

The men were paid 15,000 rand (about $2,100) for the killing, Qwabe and prosecutors have said.

In a statement provided as part of his plea deal, Qwabe said that after he and Mngeni staged a fake carjacking, he drove the car as Mngeni kept a 7.62 mm pistol pointed at Anni Dewani in the backseat and then pulled the trigger, the fatal shot going through her neck. Panicked, Qwabe said he stopped the car and got out, helping Mngeni find the spent bullet casing. He threw the casing into a sewer as they ran away into the night.

Officials at first thought the crime was robbery. The rate of violent crime is high in South Africa but attacks on foreign tourists are rare.

Shrien Dewani has denied he hired anyone to kill his wife and was allowed by authorities to leave South Africa for the United Kingdom, where he was later arrested. In March, a U.K. High Court ruled that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Dewani to South Africa, as his mental condition had worsened since his arrest there. Dewani's lawyer told the court in a hearing July 31 that he needed at least a year to recover from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder before being potentially sent back to South Africa.

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