The family of Anni Dewani, who was murdered while on her honeymoon in South Africa in 2010, say they are disgusted after one of three men jailed for her killing was granted an early release from prison.
Zola Tongo, a taxi driver, who was jailed for 18 years for his part in the murder, is to walk free from jail on July 28 after serving just over half of his sentence.
The 39-year-old had his original sentence cut from 25 years to 18 after his evidence implicated two more men in the murder plot.
Tongo had alleged Anni’s husband Shrien Dewani, who was charged but cleared of her murder, had paid him £1,400 to help carry out her killing.
But the millionaire Bristol businessman, 40, had always claimed his innocence and was found not guilty in one of South Africa’s most sensational trials after the judge halted the case midway and exonerated him.
Anni, who was 28, was killed in Tongo’s taxi after Mr Dewani and the driver were allowed out of the cab by two gangsters before his bride was shot through the neck as she cowered in the back seat of the cab.
Anni’s family today told of their anger that Tongo was being freed early after the brutal killing.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, her father Vinod Hindicha said: ‘I’m disgusted with this news. Zola Tongo is even more guilty than the men who shot Anni dead.
‘He organised the gunmen. He helped enlist them and drove my daughter to her death on that terrible night.
‘He knew Anni was going to be killed. He took an innocent woman who was on her honeymoon and left her to die.’
Mr Hindicha, 71, who lives in Sweden, added: ‘He is an evil creature. He should be left to either rot in jail and serve his full sentence.’
Anni’s widower, who is now in a relationship with a male photographer, was cleared of the murder and is now living with his Brazilian-born boyfriend in London.
Tongo accused Mr Dewani of asking him to recruit the gunmen to kill his new bride, a claim always denied by the millionaire care home boss.
In a confession read to court in December 2010, Tongo told prosecutors in South Africa he had been approached by Mr Dewani, who offered him the money to organise the killing and make it look like a carjacking.
The taxi driver said he then recruited Xolile Mngeni and a third man, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, to carry out the killing.
He said he first met Anni and Mr Dewani when he picked up the newlyweds at Cape Town Airport in November 2010 and dropped them off at the city’s waterfront Cape Grace hotel.
The next night Tongo was driving the couple through the dangerous Gugulethu suburb of the city when they were ambushed.
Mr Dewani managed to escape while his Swedish-born wife was found slumped dead in the taxi the following morning, having been shot through the neck.
He was filmed that same day paying money to Tongo which he said was cash he owed for hiring the vehicle.
Mr Dewani, who revealed during the trial that he was bi-sexual and had slept with male prostitutes, was also said to have surfed gay porn on his laptop just days after his wife was murdered.
Following a three and a half year battle against extradition, the trial against Mr Dewani in South Africa collapsed in November 2014.
The judge threw out the case, saying it was based on the witness testimony of a ‘self-confessed liar’ who ‘does not know where the truth ends and a lie begins’.
While Tongo was sentenced to 18 years, killers Mngeni and Qwabe were given life sentences. Mngeni died from brain cancer while serving his sentence.
In his only statement about his wife’s murder, Mr Dewani insisted the three men had tried to frame him.
‘I would like to make clear that I have a significant number of questions which remain unanswered about the night that my wife and I were kidnapped and Anni was tragically shot after being taken away from me.
‘Each of the gang members did a deal with the authorities to gain either full immunity or vastly reduced sentences in return for providing evidence against me.
‘It is the evidence of these proven liars that led to a witch hunt against me and the resulting failure to pursue the truth of what happened that night.
‘This has allowed the individuals concerned to literally get away with murder. I understand and share the Hindocha family’s frustrations.’
Mr Dewani has since started a relationship with photographer Gledison Lopez Martins and has travelled to Mumbai – where he married Anni – with his boyfriend.
A male prostitute known as ‘The German Master’ flew to Cape Town to give evidence of his meetings with Mr Dewani.
But the judge Jeanette Traverso halted the prosecution witness and decided his evidence was not relevant.
The German Master, whose real name was Leopold Leisser, was found hanged in his Birmingham home in November 2016.
In an affidavit to the trial, Mr Hindocha said neither he or his daughter knew anything of his son-in-law’s secret gay lifestyle in which he paid male prostitutes for sex and frequented gay clubs, when the marriage took place.
Anni’s father travelled to South Africa last year when Tongo first applied for parole.
He added today: ‘I went back even though I said I would never step foot in that country again. But I had to keep this animal Zola Tongo in jail.
‘When I left I was satisfied that he would not be released and would spend more years in jail.
‘I now know he will not serve his full sentence and will go back to his wife and children. But I will never see my child again.’
Anni’s uncle Ashok said: ‘The whole thing has been farcical since Anni was murdered.
‘We have always been frustrated by the South African legal system. And now Tongo is being allowed out half way in his sentence.’
A legal source in Cape Town said: ‘Tongo has been ticking all the relevant boxes required of him in prison and has maintained good behaviour.’
He said that there would be little point in Anni’s family challenging Tongo’s release and added: ‘Ever since the first hearing, the parole committee seemed inclined to grant parole to him.’