Dewani leaves South Africa after honeymoon murder acquittal

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Lawrence Bartlett
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Cape Town (AFP) - British businessman Shrien Dewani flew out of South Africa on Tuesday, a day after he was acquitted of murdering his bride during their honeymoon in a case that captured international attention.

Police escorted Dewani through Cape Town International Airport to catch an Emirates flight heading to Dubai which left at 1:30 pm (1130 GMT). He reportedly flew first-class and was expected to catch a connecting flight to Britain.

On Monday, Dewani walked free from the Cape Town high court after a shock judgement saw him cleared him of hiring hitmen to murder 28-year-old Anni Dewani (nee Hindocha) in a Cape Town township during their honeymoon in November 2010.

Prosecutors said Dewani wanted his wife killed because he is gay and felt trapped into marriage by family pressures.

Dewani told the court in a written statement at the start of the trial that he is bisexual and admitted having sex with male prostitutes, but said he loved Anni.

Anni's family said after the acquittal that they planned to sue Dewani, saying she would never have married him if she had known about "his secret sex life with male prostitutes".

"Neither would we have, as a family, condoned a union with a man who indulged himself in such a sordid manner," the family said in a statement.

"We will now go through this case with our lawyers to confirm whether we can file a lawsuit against Shrien Dewani in the UK."

Both families are of Indian origin and mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters had sat across the courtroom from each other since the trial began in October. Many wept -- with joy on the one hand and bitterness on the other -- when Dewani was acquitted.

The court heard that Anni sent Dewani desperate emails just days after their lavish wedding ceremony in Mumbai questioning his "feelings" for her.

"I don't want an insecure man or a man whose feelings doesn't come naturally that you have to force yourself," Anni wrote on November 5, 2010.

She was killed eight days later.

Western Cape High Court Judge Jeanette Traverso said the state's evidence had "fallen far below" the level needed to secure a conviction.

- 'Justice failed us' -

She said testimony by two men jailed for Anni's murder that Dewani had masterminded the plan was "improbable" and full of contradictions and lies.

Traverso conceded there were "a number of unanswered questions" about the murder, but said it would be unjust to force Dewani to testify in his own defence simply in the hope that he would incriminate himself.

She had earlier rejected as irrelevant testimony from a major state witness, sado-masochism "master" and gay prostitute Leopold Leisser, who reportedly told British police that Dewani had said he was getting married to a "lovely girl" but needed "to find a way out of it".

Anni's family criticised the decision to acquit Dewani without forcing him to testify, saying they needed to hear what he had to say under oath about the night she died.

"Justice failed us," said her sister Ami Denborg.

"The knowledge of not ever knowing what happened to my dearest little sister on 13 November 2010; that is going to haunt me, my family, my brother, my parents, for the rest of our lives."

Dewani had returned to Britain within days of the murder and fought a three-year legal battle to avoid being extradited to South Africa, claiming he had mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress.

But he was sent back to South Africa in April, where he was found fit to stand trial and was held at a psychiatric hospital for the duration of the trial.