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Dewani judge: I can't be swayed by public opinion

Traverso said she's taken an oath of office to administer justice without fear, favour or prejudice.

The Hindocha family gives an emotional statement on the steps of the Western Cape High Court shortly after Shrien Dewani was acquitted and discharged on 8 December 2014. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso, who acquitted British businessman Shrien Dewani today, says she can't allow herself to be swayed by public opinion on the case.

Traverso's decision to grant Dewani's application to be discharged was met with raw emotion and anger at the Western Cape High Court by those supporting Dewani's murdered wife, Anni Hindocha Dewani.

Prosecutors believed the British businessman had hired hitmen to stage a hijacking in which his wife was killed while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Traverso found the state provided no credible evidence to convict Dewani and granted an application to discharge.

She ruled there was no evidence with which a reasonable court could convict the British businessman for the 2010 killing of his wife.

"In the circumstances I make the following order, the application in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act is granted, the accused is fund not guilty and discharged."

Traverso said she is aware of strong public opinion that Dewani should present his case to the court.

"I have however taken an oath of office to uphold the rule of law and to administer justice without fear, favour or prejudice. That I cannot do if I permit public opinion to influence my application of the law."

But this explanation was not enough for Anni's supporters who voiced their anger on the steps of the court building.

One woman said, "I am very heart sore, I am heartbroken and very disappointed in our justice system."

While a man outside court said, "If it was me and you, we would have been locked up today."

"The evidence and the way that we handled the case, that is very bad. I think the justice system failed Anni," said another woman.

Dewani stood expressionless as Traverso delivered her ruling.

The British businessman's mother wept and his relatives rejoiced as the news sank in.

Dewani's in-laws were clearly gutted by the decision as they wanted Dewani to take the stand in his own defence.

The slain bride's relative say they will return to Sweden with more questions than answers.

LISTEN: _ Criminal Law expert, Professor James Grant on what this ruling may mean for the National Prosecuting Authority's credibility. _

The British businessman could fly home to Britain as early as tomorrow.

He is expected to keep a low profile but it's already anticipated that a huge media pack will descend on his family and friends in and around his hometown of Bristol in the south west of England.

Dewani is not expected to speak openly about the case in the near future but the family of his former wife have already said they will suffer sleepless nights for the rest of their lives.

Anni's uncle Ashok Hindocha said the family and the wider public will never know the full details of how and why Anni died.

CONTRADICTIONS IN STATE WITNESS TESTIMONY

Traverso spent over two hours summarising the evidence of three state witnesses.

She believes the men involved, former taxi driver Zola Tongo, hitman Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Monde Mbolombo are intelligent men who would not have gotten involved in Anni's murder for a few thousand rand.

She found contradictions in all of their testimonies.

This after state prosecutors had argued that Dewani paid R15,000 in a plot with Tongo and others to kidnap and murder his wife, charges he has consistently denied.

Traverso said even though the credibility of witnesses plays a limited role at this stage in the trial, she can't ignore the quality of their evidence.

Dewani's trial is the second high-profile case this year to turn the spotlight on South Africa's judicial system and high murder rate.

A Pretoria high court in October sentenced Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius to five years in jail for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Dewani was extradited to South Africa in April following the conviction of three South African men for their roles in Anni's death.

One of the men, Xolile Mngeni, died of a brain tumour in October.

He had been serving a life sentence for his role in the murder.

For more on the trial and Shrien Dewani, click here.

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