A man accused of being hired by British newlywed Shrien Dewani to kill his bride on their honeymoon in Cape Town has denied the charge and is going for the "long haul", a court heard.
Xolile Mngeni, who has a brain tumour, is accused of killing Anni Dewani, 28, in an apparent car hijacking in the impoverished Gugulethu township in November 2010.
Mngeni appeared at Western Cape High Court where he denied murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm. He also refused to make any formal admissions meaning the case will probably be lengthened with prosecutors having to prove each fact. Judge Robert Henney said: "My goodness, so he's going for the long haul." Up to 32 witnesses could be called to give evidence, said Shareen Riley, state prosecutor.
Mr Henney warned Mngeni, who sat calmly beside his lawyer, that the murder charge carried a life sentence "because of the manner in which it was planned". He said the kidnapping charge carried a minimum sentence of five years and the robbery charge 15 years.
The Swedish victim was shot dead after the car she was travelling in with her husband was hijacked. Dewani, who the authorities want to extradite to South Africa, was ejected from the vehicle and Mrs Dewani's body was found later.
So far, two men have admitted their roles in Mrs Dewani's murder and claimed her husband orchestrated the killing. Mziwamadoda Qwabe was jailed for 25 years and taxi driver Zola Tongo was jailed for 18 years after saying Dewani offered him 15,000 rand (about £1,200) to arrange the killing and make it look like a carjacking.
Dewani, a care home owner from Bristol, is due at Westminster Magistrates' Court on September 18 when an update will be provided on his medical condition. He is currently in the care of medics after being diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is deemed a suicide risk.
In Tongo's plea bargain confession he alleged Dewani had previously arranged for someone to be killed in a fake hijacking in South Africa. Today, a witness who was given immunity from prosecution and whose identity was kept secret for fear of reprisals, said a person believed to be Dewani had previously organised a hit to look like a hijacking. The witness said Tongo told him this on November 12 2010, just a day before Mrs Dewani's murder. Tongo and the witness sat in his silver VW Sharan, where Tongo asked him whether he knew of a hitman, upon request from a foreign man.
The witness, a hotel worker, said: "Along the way, I asked him why he was looking for a hitman... He mentioned to me that there is a lady who needs to be killed. But he's not sure because there's two ladies and he's not sure which one to kill." He added: "He said this gentleman was not from here and he had done this before... pretend as if this person was going to be hijacked when actually the person was killed." The man's name was never revealed.
According to media reports at the time, former national police commissioner Bheki Cele said the police were probing a link between the 2007 killing of an Eastern Cape doctor and Mrs Dewani's murder. Pox Raghavjee was found shot dead in his car in Bhisho, a small town in the Eastern Cape region, but nothing was stolen from him. The Sunday Times reported that his widow Heather Raghavjee, who travelled to Cape Town to comfort Shrien after the murder of his wife, said allegations of a link between the two killings were baseless.