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Shrien Dewani clears his name after muddy protracted trial

Shrien Dewani will return from South Africa a free man. Photo: Reuters

For the first time in a long while, Shrien Dewani woke up this morning without the cloud of guilt hovering over his head. A free man, he can now return to the UK and start to rebuild his life. It will take some rebuilding.

Not only has he lost his wife, he has lost 4 years.

With barely time to contemplate the enormity of what had happened to him, the South African police pursued Shrien Dewani relentlessly despite the flimsy patchwork of a case they had constructed against him.

It relied on three witnesses - all of whom told a different story each time they were asked for an explanation. The State’s star turn, taxi driver Kola Tongo accused Dewani of initiating and funding his wife’s murder. In court his evidence was risible; contradicting himself so much the Judge said it was difficult to work out where the lies ended and the truth began.

That truth actually sits somewhere between a botched hijacking or a kidnap plot that went tragically wrong. Tongo identified the rich newlyweds as targets; his desperate gang of hit-men did the rest.

All of them were offered reduced sentences, even immunity, if they confessed. They snapped up the deal and before long Tongo had implicated Shrien Dewani. In an instant the Bristol businessman’s nightmare had become far worse.

Taxi driver Zola Tongo struck a deal for a lesser sentence by implicating Shrien Dewani in the murder of his wife in 2010. Credit: Reuters

For some reason, Dewani has been judged harshly by Britain’s dinner party detectives and largely its media too. Whether it’s at the school gates, in the supermarket aisles or around the water cooler, there were few who trumpeted his innocence.

It is easy to criticise a man for the way he behaves or what he does after his wife is killed but that usually requires applying logic to a mind that after such trauma wouldn’t be capable of much logic.

How would you behave after your partner was killed? I think I know but I can’t know for sure. None of us can.

Perhaps another reason is the fact that Shrien’s family has shied away from the media. The Dewani’s have never sought public sympathy, they said at the outset the way to prove Shrien’s innocence was through the courts. They have stuck to that strategy and in the end they got their vindication.

Although it took a Judge to see what prosecutors had clearly turned a blind eye to, as their obsession with a successful conviction at all costs, outweighed any measure of legal common sense.

As much as the Dewanis have remained silent, Anni’s broken family has worn its heart on its sleeve.

It is difficult not to sympathise with them. They have said time and again, all they want is to hear, in his own words, Shrien’s recollection of events the night Anni died.

All they have to help them at the moment are the versions of three discredited criminals.

Ami Denborg, Anni Dewani's sister left court bitterly disappointed yesterday. Credit: Reuters

I suspect what eats away at them just as much, is Shrien’s bisexuality and the fact that to some extent part of his life was hidden; maybe even from Anni. This only came to light at the beginning of the trial and understandably, in Anni’s absence, her family now have many unanswered questions about Shrien’s secret lifestyle.

They say they will pursue any avenue open to them to get those questions addressed in a public forum, including contemplating civil action in a UK court, but at this stage, that looks unlikely to succeed.

Two families once united by marriage, now separated by murder.

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