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Dewani killer to be sentenced next week

Jenna Etheridge

Only after the judge considers his medical condition, will a sentence be handed down to Xolile Mngeni for the death of Anni Dewani.

Xolile Mngeni. (Gallo)

One of Anni Dewani's killers will be sentenced by the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday next week. 

Judge Robert Henney said on Monday he would sentence Xolile Mngeni (25) after considering his medical condition, the facts of the case and the state's argument for life imprisonment.

Dewani (28) was shot dead in Gugulethu on November 13 2010, in an allegedly faked hijacking. Her body was found the next day. Mngeni pleaded not guilty to the crime and made no formal admissions, leading to a protracted trial.

He was convicted last week of the tourist's premeditated murder, as well as of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

On Monday, Henney asked Mngeni's lawyer Qalisile Dayimani if his client still felt he was innocent. After consulting with Mngeni, Dayimani said: "The answer is in the affirmative."

His defence team wants the court to impose a lesser sentence based on his rare brain cancer, despite a scan last week showing he was clear of the disease. The defence called Groote Schuur oncologist Jeannette Parkes on Monday to convince the court of the seriousness of Mngeni's condition.

She testified that only one in five people survived this type of tumour in a five-year period. "In the short term, he's in a good situation, but over the long term, the risk is quite high that the disease will return."

She said a recurrence of the cancer would probably be fatal. The state argued that brain cancer could not be considered a mitigating factor, as Mngeni currently had a clean bill of health and his premature death was not definite.

Medical parole was always an option if he became terminally ill. Prosecutor Shareen Riley said Mngeni had committed the murder out of greed, and had proved his lack of remorse by shopping at the Waterfront just hours after her murder.

She painted a less than perfect picture of the killer, and said he had a blase attitude, showed antisocial behaviour and did not seem like a candidate for rehabilitation. "He displays an arrogance, a cockiness, and is a person devoid of any morality."

Henney said that in his view, mitigating factors included Mngeni's serious medical condition, age, first offender status and poor background. Mngeni lived in Khayelitsha and had only a primary school education. "The vulnerability of the accused as a poor person was, in my view, exploited," the judge said.

Riley said many people from similar backgrounds chose the moral high-ground and did not commit murder for money. The court was given a victim impact statement to consider, by Dewani's father Vinod Hindocha. It was not read out in court.

According to a copy of the statement, Hindocha and his family continued to suffer pain and sleepless nights as a result of her death. He had not been able to go back to work for two years, and his wife had been unable to avoid stress, as was required by her cancer diagnosis.

"Me and my wife always ask ourselves: what did we do wrong and what could we have done differently?"

"These questions are always in our minds and eating us from the inside. We really seek out the answer of 'Why?' and none of us can really grieve properly until we find this answer." – Sapa

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