A South African judge has found Shrien Dewani not guilty of orchestrating the killing of his wife Anni during the couple’s honeymoon in 2010.
Ruling on an application for a dismissal of the case against Mr Dewani, Judge Jeanette Traverso ruled that the prosecution’s case against the accused was so weak that Mr Dewani would only have been found guilty if he implicated himself.
The ruling means that Mr Dewani is now free to return to the United Kingdom.
The millionaire care-home owner from Bristol had been extradited to South Africa earlier this year to face charges of arranging for the murder of his Indo-Swedish wife Anni in November 2010.
Anni was killed after the taxi the couple were travelling in was hijacked inside the Gugulethu township in Cape Town.
Mr Dewani was released unharmed but his wife was kidnapped. Her body was recovered inside the taxi the next day.
State prosecutors claimed that Mr Dewani, 35, had arranged the murder with the help of taxi driver Xola Tongo in a bid to get out of the marriage because he was bi-sexual.
However, at the beginning of the trial, Judge Traverso dismissed the evidence relating to Mr Dewani’s sexuality – including testimony by a UK-based male prostitute – declaring it “irrelevant” to the case.
In her lengthy ruling on Monday, Judge Traverso meticulously took apart the prosecution’s case, in particular the evidence of the state’s key witnesses – taxi driver Xola Tongo and co-conspirator Mziwamadoda Qwabe.
The judge described both mens’ testimony as “very poor” and filled with “stark contradictions”.
“It is difficult to know where the lies end and the truth begins”, she said.
Mrs Traverso questioned numerous claims, especially by Tongo, who she reminded the court had agreed to testify against Mr Dewani in return for a reduced prison term for his role in the killing of Anni Dewani.
The judge also questioned as to why Tongo would have accepted just 5000 Rand (approximately £1300) to arrange the killing when he would “earn 30,000 Rand in a good month” in his job as a VIP taxi driver.
Mrs Traverso said that whilst some parts of Tongo’s evidence warranted further enquiry, the court could not “cherry pick” parts of his testimony and reject others.
None of his evidence, the judge continued, failed the “essential corroboration” test as set out by South African law.
She added that all the state’s witnesses were “intelligent people” who were capable of “twisting their versions to implicate the accused”.
Mrs Traverso admitted that the trial left many unanswered questions, particularly for Anni Dewani’s family which has repeatedly called for Mr Dewani to take to the stand and shed light on what had happened on the night of 13 November 2010.
However, she said that she could not “allow public opinion to influence my judgment” and in the light of the analysis of the state’s case, there was no reason to continue the trial.
Mrs Dewani’s family spoke of their distress after the ruling, saying they would suffer “sleepless nights” for the rest of their lives.
Anni’s uncle Ashok told the Daily Mail: “The decision to end the trial without the defendant offering a defence, means we, and the good people of South Africa, the UK and various parts of the world who have followed the case, will always live without ever knowing the complete events that led up to Anni’s death.”
Mr Dewani has been held at the Valkenberg Hospital near Cape Town since he was extradited in April this year.
He had denied all charges against him.
The ruling means that he will be free to return to the UK.