herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

Hitman tells court of plot to kill millionaire's bride

A convicted hitman allegedly hired to kill the wife of honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani said he was told to stage a hijacking-gone-wrong in which the British husband escaped unharmed.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe (29) came face-to-face with Anni Dewani's family as he told the Western Cape High Court in South Africa: "There was a husband who wanted his wife to be killed."

Qwabe was contacted by Zola Tongo, the Dewanis' taxi driver in Cape Town, the day before the killing.

Assassin

The witness demanded a fee of 15,000 rand (around €1,066) to carry out the attack on the 28-year-old bride, having been told by Tongo: "Somebody needs to be killed."

Standing in the witness box and seeing Dewani for the first time since the murder, Qwabe said he was concentrating on the road while fellow assassin Xolile Mngeni killed Anni. The pair later split the cash before Qwabe went for a night out "socialising", he said.

Asked by prosecutor Adrian Mopp to explain what happened on the day of the murder, Qwabe said: "There was a husband who wanted his wife to be killed." Anni would be killed and it needed to look like a hijacking. Nothing would happen to the husband and Zola (Tongo)."

Prosecutors say Dewani, who is bisexual, hatched a plot to kill his bride because he wanted out of the marriage. The 34-year-old businessman, from Westbury-on-Trym near Bristol, said he could be controlling and intense, but he maintained that he and his wife were in love with each other.

Qwabe said he and Mngeni arranged for transport to meet up with the Dewanis' cab for the attack, during which the millionaire's mobile phone would also be taken as part of the ruse.

Describing the carjacking, former Table Mountain tour guide Qwabe said: "(Mngeni) had the gun. "As it (Tongo's car) approached I got into the driver's side.

"(Mngeni) got into the passenger side and Zola got into the back. I saw in the (rear view) window a guy and behind me was a lady.

"I ordered Zola to get out of the car. He told me the money was in a pouch behind the front passenger door," Qwabe said, adding they drove further into a township.

"I stopped the vehicle, I asked the husband to get out of the car."

Asked by the prosecutor if there was any resistance from Dewani to leave, he said he did not recall.

"The husband was now out of the vehicle and I drove on," Qwabe said.

Gunshot

He said he was behind the wheel when Anni was fatally wounded.

Qwabe said: "I heard a gunshot. (Mngeni) said 'I shot the lady'.

He said he had "no sense" of whether the victim was still alive or not. "I took a quick glance at her but I was also looking for the gun casing," he added.

Qwabe, from the Khayelitsha township where Mrs Dewani's lifeless body was discovered on November 14, 2010, has already confessed to murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm.

He is serving a 25-year sentence having been convicted in August 2012.

Dewani, extradited to South Africa after a four-year battle, denies hiring Tongo to arrange the killing.

He denies murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice. The trial continues.

hnews@herald.ie

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