10. CHEAP SHOTS AND STUPID QUESTIONS

WHAT DOES A MURDERER LOOK LIKE, JEREMY?

In some places, Panorama presenter Jeremy Vine appears to be asking stupid questions, and taking cheap shots at the South African prosecutors, but could there be method in that apparent madness?

STUPID QUESTIONS

  • 11:00 Vine: “If Anni was the target, why didn’t Shrien simply identify her immediately, especially if he wanted her dead the next night?”

Of course! And he could have saved a lot more time and trouble by simply enquiring after hitman services at the Cape Grace Reception. Why didn’t he?

  • 15:02 Vine: “Does this look like a man who’s just arranged a murder?”

Vine’s idea seems to be, that people who arrange murders are immediately identifiable on CCTV (though perhaps not to all the people around them) because they are supposed to “look like” murder arrangers? Of course, the “question” is not supposed to be answered, because it is not really a question – there is no sensible answer. It is actually a rhetorical question, asking not for an answer, but a gut response. Because there is no sensible answer, the viewer is led to respond with a provisional “NO” to the purported question. That is Vine’s purpose in posing the question. He wants us to respond “No, he doesn’t look like a murderer”, and that’s how most of us do in fact respond. So this is actually a very clever and calculated stupid question. But it is also a not very ethical stupid question.

  • 18:53 Vine: “So what did Shrien Dewani and Tongo talk about? The couple’s tour itinerary? Or Anni’s murder?”

They were probably talking about the money, Jeremy. Or the murder.

  • 39:25 Vine: “Why ask the gunmen to let them go together, if he wanted Anni dead?”

Well, let me see. What sensible response can we give to this question? Let’s hazard a guess, and say he was covering his backside. If anything went “wrong” and she somehow survived, then she wouldn’t be calling the police and her parents, and telling them he’d been part of the plot? Dewani had to pretend, in front of Anni, that this was indeed a “carjacking”.

  • 25:47 Vine: “Is this really the first time Mbolombo has asked why Tongo needs a hitman?”

Well why wouldn’t it be? After all, it was less than 24 hours from when Tongo first asked Mbolombo to help, and all Mbolombo had done was put him in touch with a third person, Qwabe. This is another of those questions where we, the audience, are supposed to respond “No, I guess it’s not the first time Mbolombo asked Tongo why he needs a hitman”. And then I guess we are supposed to think. “Gee, Mbolombo must be a liar”. But unlike the one about “looking like a murderer”, this really is a stupid, stupid question. It doesn’t prove anything, and certainly doesn’t prove that Mbolombo lied, although that is so obviously Jeremy Vine’s aim.

  • 41:13 Vine: “So he’d no idea Anni was Shrien’s wife, even though he’d picked them up from the airport and driven them around for hours?”

In his by now obvious quest to defend Dewani, Jeremy really scores an own goal with this one. After spending hours looking at CCTV to “discover” Shrien’s cuddles for the cameras, Jeremy here lets slip that the reality revealed in Anni’s despairing text messages is here confirmed by the driver. Even after hours of driving “the couple” around, Shrien’s behaviour towards Anni had not suggested to Tongo that she was his wife. Says it all, really !

CHEAP SHOTS

  • 57:23 JV: “…where there are no juries”

Vine uses this phrase knowing that it will resonate with his UK audience – “no juries” equating to “no fair trial”. It is a cheap shot, because Vine does not acknowledge the widely held view, that Shrien will have a better chance of acquittal in a trial by judge alone.

Only last week in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron was reprimanded by a judge when he made comments in the  Nigella Lawson case, which the Judge had to ask the jury to discard. Juries can be easily influenced by media and political comments. Juries do not need to provide a reason for their verdict.

Whereas a professional judge has to detail his reasoning in full, quoting the law and citing case law; he has to explain his assessment of all the evidence, and he has to publish his findings in a judgement.

  • 17:16 The prosecution’s case, is that in just two calls, one lasting 79 seconds and one lasting 41, the taxi driver Tongo had hired Anni’s killers.
  • 13:34 According to their testimony, in less than two and a half minutes, first time killers Tongo and Mbolombo agree to organize Anni’s execution.
  • 03:33 The case against Shrien: He lands in Cape town with Anni, and in little more than one hour, arranges his wife’s murder with a taxi driver.

Vine may imagine that such simplistic descriptions make a telling point against the prosecution. In reality, they just reinforce the newly realised image of BBC Panorama as a peddlar of cheap, trashy, sensationalist populism, content to dismiss arguments out of hand, and unable or unwilling to get to the truth by serious consideration, and proper investigation, beyond surface appearances.

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