24. CUTTING DA GRASS

SYNOPSIS:

Panorama used interview footage of Tongo’s lawyer William da Grass, played out of its original context, over CCTV footage from the Cape Grace Hotel, to suggest a false interpretation of Tongo’s sworn affidavit. Panorama then claimed that their twisted interpretation of Tongo’s statement proves he was lying. We show that Panorama has deliberately ignored the most reasonable interpretation of Tongo’s evidence, and instead presented a wilfully false version of events.

What did Shrien Dewani say to Tongo  in his phone call from the Cape Grace Hotel?

Tongo’s allegations are set out in his “Section 105” plea and sentencing agreement, written up by his lawyer, William da Grass, and entered into court records in December 2010.

25.11          On the evening of the 13 November 2010, due to other commitments that I had, I was late in collecting Shrien Dewani and the deceased. I arrived at the hotel some time after 20h00 and by that time Shrien Dewani had already called me in an agitated state to find out where I was and the reason for the delay.
25.14          I then drove to Surfside restaurant in the Strand. Shrien Dewani and the deceased had supper in the restaurant. Prior to entering the restaurant Shrien Dewani asked me what was happening and said he wanted the job done that night.

The statement clearly refers to two separate communications: the 1st, a telephone call from the Cape Grace Hotel, in which an agitated Dewani asked why Tongo was late; and the 2nd, a face-to-face encounter outside the Surfside Restaurant, where Dewani “wanted the job done that night“.

But Jeremy Vine and his Panorama pals insist on a different interpretation. They suggest that interview footage of Tongo’s lawyer William da Grass, put together with CCTV from the Cape Grace Hotel, contradicts Tongo’s statements; hence they claim Tongo has lied.

But nowhere in the written records does Tongo state that Shrien Dewani’s call from the Cape Grace Hotel, included a demand that the job be done that night. In order to suggest that claim, Panorama resorted to subterfuge. They broadcast an excerpt from an interview with William da Grass – footage which cannot be independently assessed because it is not publicly available – and played that footage, bereft of its original context, alongside CCTV of the 1st communication from the Cape Grace Hotel. Panorama do not even mention the 2nd communication, much less acknowledge that it more closely matches what da Grass says. Nor do they mention that their constructed version of Tongo’s evidence flagrantly contradicts his sworn written affidavit, as lodged with the court.

But Panorama were so proud of this subterfuge that they featured it prominently in their promotional material in the week before it was first screened in Panorama’s 2012 program on 29th March 2012. It was also given airplay on the BBC as a news item, and released to wider media as a press release.

Panorama 2012

Vine: 7:30 came and went, and Tongo didn’t turn up, as arranged
Dewani: When he said he was late we just had another drink and just carried on chatting.
Vine: Tongo claims Shrien Dewani became agitated at his being late. His lawyer goes further:
da Grass: ‘Dewani demanded to know what the holdup was, and insisted that the act be perpetrated, and perpetrated that very day’
Vine: But this CCTV never before made public does not support that version of events. Shrien is pictured here, holding his phone to his left ear. Panorama can reveal, this was the moment he spoke to Tongo, 7:45 pm. He shows no sign of being agitated. Is it really credible that Shrien insisted Anni was to be killed that night, when she’s sat right next to him?

The idea promoted by Jeremy Vine…

that Tongo’s lawyer could “go further” in describing events than Tongo himself, is absurd. Vine implies that what Tongo has said in written statements, and what his lawyer says at interview, are separable issues; as if comparing two independent witness accounts of the phone call. But in this case there is only one witness to the phone call, and the discussion concerns, not the phone call itself, but what the witness said about it. Tongo’s statements as recorded in the police files, were made under the advisement of Tongo’s lawyer William da Grass. And Tongo’s statement, as accepted by the court, was written up by none other than Tongo’s lawyer, William da Grass. So there can be no meaningful distinction between the written record of Tongo’s statements, and what William da Grass his lawyer says on his behalf.

The “version of events” that Vine refers to, is Panorama’s own “version of events”. That “version of events” does not exist anywhere else: not in the police files, nor in Tongo’s Section 105 plea agreement. It is a “version of events” which could only be achieved by recasting the evidence to fit the mold of Panorama’s predetermined verdict; a “version of events” which exists only because Panorama have suggested it.

Strangely, Panorama regard that interview footage of William da Grass as a better source than both Tongo’s sworn affidavit to the court, and his signed statement to police. Panorama ignore both those documents. And even more strangely, Panorama then suggest that their preferred “version of events” is not credible, because it is not supported by the Cape Grace CCTV.

Yet Panorama were so happy with this “version of events” they decided to include a re-edited version in their 2013 production as well.

Panorama 2013

Vine: At the Cape Grace, seven thirty came and went with no sign of Tongo. Shrien Dewani called him.
Dewani: The driver was delayed, so when he said he was late we just had another drink and just ..ah carried on chatting
Vine: But Tongo and his legal team give a very different account.
Tongo: Dewani called me in a agitated state to find out where I was
da Grass: Dewani demanded to know what the hold up was, and insisted that the act be perpetrated, and perpetrated that very day.
[Pause, 6 seconds duration]
Vine: This is CCTV of that call. Shrien Dewani is holding his phone to his left ear – Anni’s side. He shows no sign of agitation, and according to Tongo, he insists on Anni’s murder when she’s sat right beside him.

In 2012, Panorama stopped just short…

…of alleging that the version of events they presented was what Tongo had claimed.
Vine says: “Tongo claims Shrien Dewani became agitated… His lawyer goes further…”
Then, seconds later, Panorama’s intended imputation is left hanging as a question, not a statement:
Vine: “Is it really credible that Shrien insisted Anni was to be killed that night, when she’s sat right next to him?”

In 2013, Panorama are not so coy…

Now Panorama claim to be reporting what “Tongo and his legal team” have said, and go so far as to state “according to Tongo, he insists on Anni’s murder when she’s sat right beside him.“, apparently relying on the footage of da Grass as their sole justification.  Why doesn’t Vine simply quote from Tongo’s police statement? The answer is, he cannot. Because Tongo has not made any such claim, and Panorama know it. So how can they possibly justify the insertion of interview footage, sequenced to imply precisely that claim, when there exists a predominance of evidence against that interpretation.

Jeremy Vine and Panorama choose not to tell us, that what da Grass says is in fact an accurate report of Tongo’s allegations. But the events da Grass refers to are described by Tongo as occurring 2 hours later, and 50 km distant from the Cape Grace.

The footage of da Grass is suspect, as it is inserted without any of its original context. To imply, as Panorama does, that his comment relates to the footage at the Cape Grace, is wilfully malicious. Even if da Grass, talking on-the-fly at interview, had made such a statement unambiguously, it would clearly conflict with his statements elsewhere, and most particularly, it would conflict with Tongo’s signed police statements, and his sworn affidavit to the court.

In a court of law, da Grass would be called to account, and asked to explain the apparent discrepancy. But not in Panorama’s trial by TV. Instead, it is seized upon, and made into a centrepiece of Panorama’s biased campaign in support of murder-accused Shrien Dewani.

From the BBC’s editorial guidelines:

Section 3 Accuracy

  • 3.4.2 “In all our content we must check and verify information, facts and documents, where required to achieve due accuracy. If we have been unable to verify material sufficiently, we should say so and attribute the information.”
  • 3.4.11 “We must not knowingly and materially mislead our audiences with our content. We may need to clarify the nature of some content by labeling (for example, verbally, in text or with visual or audio cues) to avoid being misleading.”

Section 4 – Impartiality

  • 4.4.12 “News in whatever form must be treated with due impartiality, giving due weight to events, opinion and main strands of argument. The approach and tone of news stories must always reflect our editorial values, including our  commitment to impartiality.”

The inclusion of this footage, stripped of its original interview context, cannot possibly be a mistake, as versions of it were included in both the 2012 and 2013 programs. The sequence that the BBC producers have so widely promoted is a lie. It is a carefully constructed juxtaposition of picture and sound, made with the deliberate aim of misleading their audience. It is a deliberate misrepresentation of Tongo’s statements to police and to the courts; a fabrication which in the context of a murder investigation, flouts standards of journalistic integrity, professional conduct, and plain human decency. Panorama’s decision to include this footage is an expression of their extreme bias, and de-facto advocacy on behalf of murder suspect Shrien Dewani, demonstrating contempt for the BBC’s editorial guidelines, the BBC Charter, and the “public interest” which they purport to serve.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s