Updated April 1, 2012
Shrien and Anni Dewani on their wedding day. (Photo was handed out to the media.)
Both brilliant and beautiful, Anni Dewani was shot to death on her honeymoon outside Cape Town, South Africa during a carjacking that her millionaire husband, Shrien Dewani, survived. The three men convicted of the murder say the young husband hired them to kill his wife. Dewani, a British citizen, fought extradition to South Afria for three years before being brought to trial in October of 2014. On December 8, 2014, Dewani was acquitted and set free. Judge Jeanette Traverso stated at a hearing in Cape Town that there was "no evidence which a reasonable court can convict the accused." Members of the victim's family expressed outrage at the judge's ruling outside the Western Cape High Court.
The names of the places sounded exotic: Gugulethu. Lingelethu. Khayelitsha. Chitwa Chitwa. They created images of beautiful people dancing to the beat of drums on a hot summer night.
To the cops in their dark blue uniforms, who stood around the white Volkswagen Sharan, abandoned in the place that bore the name Lingelethu, there was nothing exotic though about the young woman who lay sprawled across the vehicle’s rear seat. Two holes between her shoulders and another in her neck from which her blood had flowed freely so that most of the inside of the car was covered in blood, told them that the young woman was dead.
They knew her name: Anni Dewani.
They were wondering how they were going to tell her husband Shrien, who had in the first hour of that morning reported her missing and was anxiously waiting at a nearby luxury hotel, what they had found.
It was Sunday, November 13, 2010, shortly after 7 a.m. but day had already broken two hours previously because this was Africa where the sun rises early and dusk descends rapidly.
To be exact, it was South Africa, the country which had not so long ago emerged free and happy from three centuries of constitutionalized racial segregation – apartheid – but which was struggling with a crime rate that had become one of the highest in the developing world. Statistics released by the South African government in September 2010 showed that in the period April 2009/March 2010 a total of 2,121,887 serious crimes had been committed. Of those 68,332 had been rape, 17,410 attempted murder, 16,834 murder, 14,542 illegal possession of firearms, 13,902 carjacking, 2,889 kidnapping and 256,577 had been burglaries at residential premises.
Those cops standing around the Sharan could therefore have been described as tough yet they still swallowed hard.
Anni and Shrien Dewani were tourists from England.
They were on their honeymoon.
After a safari in the north of the country they had flown south where they had booked into a luxury five-star hotel – The Cape Grace – in the seaside city of Cape Town, South Africa’s parliamentary capital.
The Cape Grace Hotel - the salmon pink building to the right of the photo (Copyright Arwen McDermott)
The two had, as is said, everything to live for, yet one of them lay dead: Murdered.
The night before, midnight approaching, the hotel’s receptionist had, on the request of the distraught Shrien Dewani, 30, a handsome Anglo-Indian millionaire from the city of Bristol in England, called the police to report that a taxi in which the two honeymooners were passengers had been carjacked by two gunmen who had driven off with Mr. Dewani’s wife, Anni, 28.
The police had raced to the hotel.
It was not a time to speak of luck and therefore they did not tell Dewani that he was lucky to have survived because a carjacking always ended with the death of the vehicle’s passengers.
They also did not tell him that there was a 99.99 percent possibility that the gunmen would have raped his wife. And then they would have shot her or knifed her to death.
How it had happened
Dewani told his story to the police.
On the previous night at 8:30, a taxi had called at the hotel to take him and his wife to a restaurant in the plush beach resort of The Strand, 31 miles southeast from Cape Town.
Because Anni wanted to experience “the real Africa,” he said, they had asked the driver, a man named Zola Tongo, to drive them through one of the numerous residential areas around Cape Town where Black African people live. Such areas are known as townships. They date from the apartheid years when only white people – Europeans as they were racially classified – were allowed to live in the country’s cities and towns, and the Black African people, as also people of mixed race and of Asian ancestry, were obliged by law to live in townships, sometimes called locations. Despite that constitutionalized apartheid had ended in 1994, a combination of a grave housing shortage and poverty had prevented those ethnic groups from moving to the formerly all-white cities and towns.
Life in a township is one of insecurity and squalor; the people live in shacks which have no electricity, hot water or heating for the winter. Yet, the townships have become tourist attractions because well-heeled foreigners believe that those are the only places where they can see and experience “the real Africa.” They can eat African food cooked in three-legged iron pots over open fires, drink frothy African beer and dance the night away to pulsating African music.
The shacks of Gugulethu near Cape Town (Copyright Arwen McDernott)
Gugulethu. Lingelethu and Khayelitsha were examples of such townships. The three were close to Cape Town.
Gugulethu, 10 miles southeast from the city and on the way to The Strand, had been Tongo’s choice for a taste of “the real Africa.” The name means “our pride” in Xhosa, the language of 95 percent of the township’s almost 400,000 inhabitants. What there was to be proud of was questionable because according to statistics by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) 730 people were murdered in the township in the period 2005/2010. That meant that over the past five years every 60 hours someone had been murdered there.
Dewani continued with his story.
He said that after their drive through the township, they had continued for another 22 miles to The Strand. There they had dined on sushi. Tongo had waited outside in his Sharan.
At 10:30 p.m. they had left the restaurant, and on their way back to Cape Town, they had decided to go on another drive through Gugulethu, but half an hour into the drive, two men, armed with guns, had ambushed the Sharan. At a crossroad, the gunmen had jumped on to the bonnet of the car to force Tongo to stop. Tongo having been ordered at gunpoint from the car, one of the gunmen had jumped behind the wheel. The car with him and Anni in the rear, and Anni screaming, had sped off. Twenty minutes later, at 11:20 p.m., the gunmen had pushed him through one of the car’s rear windows. They had then driven off into the dark night with the screaming Anni.
He would a day later tell the London daily, The Daily Mail, by telephone, “I was dumped through the back of the passenger window as the car was moving. I landed on a patch of sand.”
Having tried to raise the alarm by knocking on doors but not one of them having opened, he had finally succeeded in flagging down a car and was driven to the hotel where he had then raised the alarm.
Sympathy and suspicion
While Dewani’s millionaire father, Prakash, 62, from Bristol and Anni’s father, wealthy electrical engineer, Vinod Hindocha, 61, an Indian resident from Sweden, boarded a plane at London’s Heathrow airport for the flight to Cape Town, Shrien and Anni’s love story became prime time and front page news not only in South Africa and England, but worldwide.
Anni Hindocha was born in Sweden, from Indo-Ugandan parents. Vinod Hindocha and his wife had fled from Uganda in the 1970s when the then president of the African state, Idi Amin, had initiated a series of anti-Asian pogroms. Sweden had offered the couple asylum. Anni grew up in Mariestad (Pop.16,000), three hours by train from the Swedish capital, Stockholm. She was a brilliant student who became an electronic engineer and joined the Swedish electronic company, Eriksson, in Stockholm.
A beautiful dark-haired, dark-eyed young lady, she set off for England in 2009 to stay with a cousin in Luton, 30 miles north of London.
Friends introduced her to Shrien Dewani. He was as handsome as she was beautiful, and he was not only the son of millionaire Prakash, but a millionaire himself.
Shrien Dewani, a former grammar school boy (a selective state secondary school that teaches an academic curriculum) and later general secretary of the National Hindu Students Forum at Manchester University, had first trained and worked as an accountant before he had joined his pharmacist father and brother Preyen, his senior by a year, to found a chain of 10 nursing and care homes for the elderly in South West England and South Wales. The company, PSP Healthcare – People Supporting People – was said to be worth $24 million.
Once Anni had met Dewani she moved the 120 miles north to Bristol and began to work in PSP. She also did some fashion modeling.
In June of 2010 Anni and Dewani became engaged and on Thursday, October 28, in a lavish three-day ceremony, the two were married in Mumbai, India. Three hundred guests, most of them having flown from England and Sweden for the $310,000 wedding that could have been the finale of a Bollywood musical, watched the gorgeous bride and groom dance to the music of the song “Pehla Nasha” (First Love) popularized in a Bollywood movie. “It was obvious they were madly in love,” a guest has been quoted in the Daily Mail. Anni wore a green sarong and Dewani was in a traditional gold-colored, high-collared Indian wedding suit with turban.
On Wednesday, November 3, the couple flew back to Bristol to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali (the Festival of Lights) with the Dewani family in Bristol. Their home was to be a large, elegant house in the affluent Bristol suburb of Westbury-on-Trym.
On Sunday, November 7, the two flew to Johannesburg to start their honeymoon. They’d been husband and wife for 10 days. From Johannesburg’s international airport they flew north to the town of Nelspruit and from there they made a 45-minute car journey to a game reserve, the Sabi Sand, which borders Southern Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park. Dewani had booked them into the Chitwa Chitwa Lodge. The couple could either lie beside the swimming pool or go on photo safaris: It is forbidden to hunt in both the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
Four days later, on Friday, November 12, they were driven back to Nelspruit for the one-hour flight to Johannesburg and to fly on south to Cape Town. At the coastal city’s airport, instead of using the airport-to-hotel shuttle service, they took a Volkswagen Sharan taxi. The driver was Zola Tongo. Dewani’s Bristol office had in advance of their departure from London, arranged for a taxi to collect him and Anni at the airport to drive them to the hotel. Any alert tourist knows that because of an endemic carjacking it is dangerous to drive around the country unless one knows where not to go. Townships are always no-go areas.
While the South African police, indeed the South Africans, asked themselves why tourists are so stupid as to drive into townships, and what was more, to do so at night, and not once but twice on the same night, and many of them doubting Dewani’s version of events, the English media ran stories of how dangerous the new South Africa was. Old colonial hurts and prejudices came to the fore; South Africa had been a Dutch colony from 1652 to 1795 when the British Empire had seized it to stop France’s Napoleon from doing so. The English, suspicious of any of its former colonies being able to govern themselves, had already expressed doubt earlier in 2010 about South Africa’s ability to host the 2010 Football World Cup. It is a country of many long lonely roads and no public transport. But above all, as the English media emphasized, South Africa has such a high crime rate.
Accordingly, to the English, the Dewani murder was proof that South Africa was not the peaceful “rainbow nation” that Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former South African president, Nelson Mandela, had been claiming. It was a wild, dangerous place.
The South African media responded to such criticism. It asked many questions. Why was Dewani not killed too? Why, if he had been forced through a window of a speeding car, did he not even have one scratch on him? Why was the taxi driver not killed? The two killers must surely have known that both Tongo and Dewani would be able to describe them to the police and identify them in a line-up. Above all, the media questioned the sanity of a man who would agree to be driven twice through a township in the middle of the night, his wife in the vehicle too?
Bheki Cele, the South African police commissioner, also responded. “You in the United Kingdom are not crimeless,” he angrily told English journalists who had flown to Cape Town to cover the story.
South Africa’s minister of Tourism and Economic Development, Alan Winde, also stepped forward to defend his country. He said, “A team is on hand 24/7 and has been assisting Mr. Dewani as much as possible with emotional, medical and logistical support.”
Each year 1.5 million foreign tourists visit Cape Town, which makes that seaside city one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations. As the Cape Town-based newspapers pointed out, if tourists should stop visiting the city, the livelihoods of millions in the country from all ethnic groups, would suffer.
Like the English, both the Dewani and the Hindocha families gave the grieving Shrien their support. Not only had the two fathers, as distraught as the widower, flown to South Africa, but back in Bristol, dozens of wreaths were brought to the Dewani home, and in Sweden, written condolences were delivered at the Hindocha home.
While the police were undertaking an autopsy on Anni’s body, Dewani appointed the Johannesburg-based top divorce and criminal lawyer, Billy Gundelfinger, to represent him. Gundelfinger would not remain Dewani’s lawyer for long; he resigned on Saturday, December 4. Citing client confidentiality he would not discuss the reasons for his resignation.
All that the South African police, always tightlipped, would say about the autopsy was that Anni had not been raped.
All that they would say about her actual murder was that her body had been found in the carjacked Sharan in the sector of Gugulethu named Lingelethu West, “our attempt” in Xhosa, home to 40,000 people. The carjackers and killers had forced Dewani from the car earlier in the nearby township of Khayelitsha. That name means “new home” in Xhoza, and it is home to more than 400,000 people, 40 percent of them under the age of 19. It is one of the country’s most impoverished townships, yet its crime rate has been falling over the past years. In the period 2003/2004, 16,648 crimes had been reported for Khayelitsha against 5,046 during 2008/2009. The reduction, according to the police, is due to the residents’ cooperation in fighting crime; denouncing criminals for example. It was presumed that a resident had seen the Sharan and that there was a woman’s body inside and had summoned the cops.
On Tuesday, November 16, Dewani and the two fathers flew back to England. Anni’s body was also being flown back to England – in the hold of a cargo plane.
No one in South Africa understood why the police had allowed Dewani to leave the country. He should, the media said, have remained in Cape Town to help the police with their investigation. He would surely have to identify the killers.
“He’s not a suspect so we can’t hold him against his will if he wants to go,” explained Commissioner Cele.
While the media continued to speculate about the murder, the South African police continued to be vague.
“The search for Mrs. Dewani’s killers is at a crucial stage and we are not prepared to risk jeopardizing the process by communicating details of the investigation,” the minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, explained to those criticizing the police’s non-cooperation.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Commissioner Cele meanwhile urged the inhabitants of the three townships to come forward with information so that the “scoundrels,” as he called the killers, could be apprehended.
At the same time Minister Mthethwa said that foreigners who vacation in the country have a crucial role to play in guaranteeing their own safety.
He said: “As they would do in any country across the world, we urge them to exercise caution and especially – when they need general information – to consult the one-stop tourist information resources.” Few understood what he meant by “one-stop tourist information resources,” until editors pointed out that motorists should never pull up to ask a passerby for directions, but should obtain a map from a tourist office.
On that Tuesday, November 16, as Anni’s body was being transported back to England, Captain Frederick van Wyk of the Cape Town police announced that his men were “working on clues.” That was, however, all that he would say.
A day later, shortly after daybreak, a 26-year-old man was arrested in Lingelethu township. Named Xolile Mngeni, he and a younger brother were asleep at their grandmother’s house when the cops burst in. The grandmother, Zanyiwe Mngeni, complained to the media: “They,” - she meant the police – “were crawling all over the place like ants.”
Within 24 hours Mngeni was led handcuffed into a courtroom in the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg and was charged with “murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.” He denied any involvement with Anni’s murder although the cops had found a gun, empty bullet cartridges and Anni’s stolen property – wristwatch, white-gold and diamond bracelet, handbag and cell phone – in Mrs. Mngeni’s house. Through his lawyer, he claimed that the police had “semi-suffocated” him with a plastic bag during their interrogation.
Two days later another two men were arrested. They were Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25, also from Lingelethu and Zola Tongo, 31, the taxi driver. Tongo, from the middle-income town of Bothasig, six miles northeast of Cape Town, was not a regular employee of the limousine hire company, owners of the Sharan; he was moonlighting.
Qwabe would also through his lawyer claim that the police had treated him roughly on his arrest and during interrogation. He claimed that they had kicked and beaten him.
As for Tongo, he would initially insist that he was as much a victim of Mngeni and Qwabe as the Dewanis. Quickly though he changed his story. He will talk, he told the police. Next, negotiating a plea bargain, he not only talked, he sang like a bird. Dewani, he said, had paid him $2,500 (ZAR15,000 - South African rand) to organize the killing of Anni.
While the revelation rolled off the presses of newspapers all over the world because it was such a sad story for such a beautiful woman to be so cold-bloodedly slain on her honeymoon, Dewani vehemently denied that his wife’s murder was a contract killing and that he had been the contractor.
To assist him in putting his message across, he hired the English PR guru, Max Clifford.
Said Clifford, known rather for doing public relations for scantily-clad wannabees and politicians embroiled in sex or financial scandals, than for men enmeshed in murder: “I have met Dewani. I have spoken to him. I have looked him in the eye. I have talked it through. I have asked him all the questions that journalists have been asking and all circumstances and I totally believe him.”
Anni Dewani was cremated in Bristol according to the Hindu religion, and a memorial service was held for her in her birthplace in Sweden, in Mariestad.
According to Tongo he had seen the Dewani couple for the first time on Friday, November 12, when he had picked them up at the Cape Town airport to drive them to their hotel. During the drive, the couple had asked him if he would take them on sightseeing tours. He would be paid in cash for each excursion.
Half an hour after he had dropped the Dewanis off at the Cape Grace Hotel and while he was waiting outside in case the couple would want to go for an immediate drive, Dewani had walked up to him, and, as he said, “he asked me if I knew anyone that could have a client of his taken off the scene.”
The murder modus operandi was worked out the next day, Saturday, November 13, as he was driving Dewani to a black-market money dealer to change some U.S. dollars into South African rand. He had driven Dewani back to the hotel within an hour.
The “client” Dewani wanted “taken off the scene,” was Anni. She would be killed in a fake carjacking. Dewani had told him that he had already previously had someone murdered in a fake carjacking in South Africa.
As Tongo would continue with his story, he did not however have the expertise to kill the young woman himself, and neither did he know anyone who had such skill. He did though know someone who had contacts in the criminal underworld and would know a killer. He had gone to have a word with him.
That man’s name was Monde Mbolombo, 31, a hotel receptionist at the four-star Hotel Colosseum, outside Cape Town.
“I informed Mbolombo that there would be R15,000 ($2,500) for the job. Mbolombo said that he wanted R5,000 ($1,000) for finding a hit man and that we would have to pay the hit man R10,000 ($1,500),” Tongo told the police. (The police have not said whether the total amount that Dewani had therefore allegedly offered the four was $5,000.)
Mbolombo did indeed know someone who could do the killing. He knew two people in fact: Mngeni and Qwabe.
At 8:30 that evening he, Tongo, had picked the couple up at the hotel in his Sharan and the fake carjacking he and Dewani had worked out together was set in motion.
He had driven the couple to the arranged spot in Gugulethu township where the two killers would be waiting. The two were nowhere to be seen. He drove on to the The Strand for the dinner Anni had all along thought was the reason for the outing. Before they had reached the restaurant he had sent a text message to Dewani’s Blackberry to tell him not to forget about the money. Dewani had replied from the rear seat with a text to tell him that the money was in an envelope behind the front passenger seat. Then, outside the restaurant Dewani had walked up to him to ask what was happening and to tell him to bear in mind that he wanted the job done that night. While the couple dined he had called the killers to ask where they had been earlier and to make sure that they would be at the arranged spot in Gugulethu from 11 o’clock onwards.
They put a gun in my ear
In Bristol, Dewani, his eyes red from crying and sunken from grief, defended himself.
He retold the story of the carjacking
To the Daily Mail he said: “But I don’t want to go into detail about what happened during the attack, because I will probably start crying. But they were so cold. They put a gun in my ear and pulled back the trigger. It really was the stuff of movies. The two men kept saying: ‘We are not going to hurt you. We just want the car.’ That was a lie. Most of the conversation in the car was us pleading to be dumped together. I held onto Anni as I said to them, ‘If you’re not going to hurt her, why don’t you let us go?’”
His story had however changed a little.
He said that it was Tongo who had suggested the drive through Gugulethu township. They had also driven into the township only once which was after they had dined in The Strand. He also said that he and his wife were held in the car for 40 minutes before he was thrown out and not 20, as he said before. He had struggled with the two killers but they had been stronger and had thrown him from the car. They had kept his Blackberry, but once back at the hotel he had, using the hotel’s phone, frantically, but unsuccessfully, tried to phone Anni’s cell phone company for them to trace her cell. He had also tried strenuously, and again without success, to get the Sharan’s registration number. When no one could help him, he had begged the police to send a chopper up over Cape Town in search of the car.
Of his murdered wife he said that she had loved life and had always been a happy person.
Of Tongo’s version of what had happened that Saturday night, he said: “I searched high and low for my perfect partner … why would I want to kill her?”
The two of them, he said, had, before getting back into the Sharan, gone for a romantic walk along the beach; the restaurant was right on the sea front.
“It was a beautiful evening,” he recalled. They had held hands
PR guru Clifford also dismissed Tongo’s version of the night of the murder. He called it outrageous.
So did the Dewani family.
And so did the Hindocha family.
Ashok Hindocha, 50, Anni’s uncle, said that the South African police should dig deeper into the murder. He did all the same say that Shrien Dewani should return to South Africa to clear his name.
“All the members of the Hindocha family want to know by whom and for what our girl was murdered. I can tell you, if it was my wife who was murdered I would jump into a plane, go there and ask those people, ‘Why did you kill my wife and for what?’ This is a question that not only the Hindocha family but millions of people around the world would like to know.”
While the South African media did not conceal the fact that they believed Tongo rather than Dewani, people who knew the widower and had known Anni began to talk about them.
Preyen Dewani described his brother as very resilient and a man with strength of character. “He has always been strong with a firm belief in his Hindu faith,” he said.
A former teacher of Dewani described him as an outstanding young man, immensely talented, very diplomatic and a natural leader.
Angela Bartlett, 46, from England handed photographs to the London tabloid The Sun she had taken on a holiday she and her husband had spent at the Chitwa Chitwa lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The Dewanis were fellow guests and Bartlett had photographed the two dining with her and her husband at the lodge on the first night of their honeymoon, and four days before Anni was to be shot dead.
“They seemed such a normal, happy couple. There were no arguments that we saw. They seemed very evenly matched. She wasn’t in his shadow. I was struck by how beautiful Anni was. She was stunning,” said Bartlett.
The impression the couple had made on Dinho Plembe, a barman at the lodge, was not of two people who were madly in love with each other.
He told the South African media: “I never saw them kissing each other or cuddling or holding hands. If I hadn’t been told that they were on honeymoon I wouldn’t have guessed it.”
Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, echoed his brother Ashod’s concern by questioning the South African police’s handling of the case. He wondered why the police had allowed his son-in-law to leave the country just four days after his daughter’s murder and why they had not conducted a second autopsy on his daughter’s body; rumors had started to circulate that Anni had indeed been raped. The English also had not conducted an autopsy. (In another high-profile death on foreign soil – that of Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales – the English police had conducted their own autopsy following that of the French. See article http://www.crimemagazine.com/princess-diana%E2%80%99s-death //.)
While he also expressed the wish that his son-in-law should return to South Africa to officially identify the two killers and the taxi driver, he telephoned the London-based Sunday tabloid The Mail on Sunday from his home in Sweden to tell them that his daughter had burst into tears on the flight from London to South Africa and that she had refused to sit beside her husband.
He told the paper: “We have heard that the air hostess noticed they were sitting separately and Anni was crying. The air hostess apparently asked Anni if she would like to sit with Shrien, but Anni said no.”
The paper asked Mr. Hindocha how he had learned this but he would not elaborate.
He did though issue a statement that read: “Further to recent reports in several newspapers I would like to state that my relationship with Shrien is a good one and I love him like a son. Whoever did this to my daughter are criminals who need to be caught and put behind bars. I have always supported Shrien and I will continue to do so throughout this horrendous ordeal.”
The South African police had by then begun to say that Dewani must return to Cape Town to help them with their investigation. The police made it quite clear that if he did not return voluntarily, South Africa would request his extradition from the English.
Shrien Dewani, refusing to return, hired London-based Clare Montgomery QC, specialist in criminal and fraud law, as his lawyer.
He told English journalists: “Saying I was somehow involved simply defies logic. Anni wasn’t on any life insurance policies and we hadn’t even made a will. I had no motive – financial or otherwise. I loved her and still love her.”
On Monday, December 6, just 24 days after Anni’s murder, Zola Tongo’s trial began in Cape Town’s High Court.
It was the height of summer in South Africa, but a white cloud hung over the flat-topped mountain – Table Mountain – behind the city’s gabled Dutch-style houses, a reminder of the country’s Dutch past.
Tongo arrived at the court house in a police transport vehicle. He tried desperately to hide his face in his white shirt.
To a packed court, State Prosecutor Rodney de Kock outlined the case clearly implicating Shrien Dewani.
Tongo confirmed the story he had told the police and which had been so widely reported. He and Dewani, he said, had agreed that the two of them would be ejected unharmed from the Sharan, but that the female occupant – Anni – would be killed. His part of the money that Dewani had offered for the killing had come to ZAR5,000 ($700).
Judge President John Hlophe said: “The alleged carjacking was in fact not a carjacking, but part of a plan of subterfuge Shrien Dewani, the husband of the deceased, and the accused had designed to conceal the true facts, to wit: that the deceased was murdered at the instance of her husband.”
Finally, Prosecutor de Kock outlined the terms of a plea bargain deal the authorities had agreed with Tongo. Until 1997 when South Africa abolished the death sentence, punishment for murder, as indeed for complicity in murder, was death on the gallows, but in present-day South Africa the maximum sentence for murder is life which means 28 years behind bars before parole could be considered. Tongo, guilty of complicity in murder, would therefore have received a life sentence, but because of the plea bargain, he received just 18 years.
He still hid his face when led from the court room and the court house.
Mngeni and Qwabe would stand trial in February 2011.
As for Mbolombo he was granted indemnity from prosecution as long as he continued to cooperate with the police and testify truthfully in Mngeni and Qwabe’s trial. And in that of Shrien Dewani should he ever stand trial in South Africa.
Mbolombo had, in his confession to the police, said that on the day after Anni’s murder he had asked Qwabe what had happened the previous night. Qwabe’s reply had been: “Did you not hear the news? It was all over the news.”
Truths or untruths?
Despite that Tongo had been sentenced and Mngeni and Qwabe were behind bars, and would undoubtedly remain there for at least the next 28 years, the Dewani name remained on the front pages.
Some London papers reported that they had been shown closed-circuit television footage that showed Anni walking through the lobby of the Chitwa Chitwa Lodge, her head down and her eyes on a laptop. The papers reported that the South African police believed that the laptop could contain valuable information. Information that would shed light on the couple’s relationship. Whether they have had an argument, or had realized that their marriage was a mistake. The laptop was missing.
According to the editors, they had seen yet another roll of closed-circuit TV footage which had been recorded by the Cape Grace Hotel’s security cameras. It showed Dewani handing Tongo a bag which the latter slipped under his clothes before he disappeared into a toilet. The police thought that he had gone to the toilet to count the money; perhaps to divide it into four in order to pay his three accomplices. That scene had been recorded two days after Anni’s murder and it corroborated Tongo’s claim that it was on that day that Dewani had paid him.
The papers also reported a series of leaks about the case.
Only one leak about how Dewani had tricked the Chitwa Chitwa Lodge into giving him a discount was verifiable. The lodge confirmed that when Dewani’s office had made the couple’s reservation, they had been told that Shrien Dewani was a high-ranking English tourism official and they had been asked for a generous discount.
Those leaks which could not be verified were:
- Dewani had tried to be refunded for that part of Anni’s London/Cape Town return air ticket that she had not used.
- The Dewanis’ care home business was $10.3 million in debt.
- Shrien and Anni’s marriage had not been a love match; it had been arranged by their families.
- The person Dewani had spoken of when he had told Tongo that he had already had someone killed in South Africa was a Dr. Pox Raghavjee. The doctor, a friend of the Dewanis, was shot to death in 2007 in a carjacking in a town named King William’s Town, some 600 miles from Cape Town.
- Dewani was a closet gay.
That last leak grew in substance when a London-based German taxi boy (male hooker) known on the gay scene in England as “The German Master,” reported to the London police that Shrien Dewani had paid him for three kinky sex sessions between September 2009 and April 2010. The police did not name the German but some London tabloids ran photos of him in his working gear of black leather and military-style cap. As it is not a misdemeanor in England to pay a rent boy for sex unless there had been soliciting in a public place which had not happened in this case, there was no charge that the English police could bring against the German. The South African police though did express the wish to have a word with him about Dewani’s sexuality.
The leak that was the most damaging to Dewani’s reputation and his claim of innocence in his wife’s murder was the one about the murder of Dr. Raghavjee. The doctor’s murder had remained unsolved but the South African police had ruled out robbery because the doctor’s wallet which contained cash was not stolen and neither were his gold watch and cell phone.
Mrs. Raghavjee would come to Dewani’s rescue by describing any link between her husband’s murder and that of Anni as ridiculous because the two men had never even met, yet the South African police reopened the case.
South Africa’s legal counsel in England, Ben Watson, requested the English police to arrest Shrien Dewani and to hold him until a hearing of extradition to South Africa could be held. The Cape Town police not only wanted to question him about his wife’s murder but also about that of Dr. Raghavjee.
On Tuesday, December 7, Dewani wearing blue jeans and a dark-blue windbreaker, surrendered to the English police in Bristol. In South Africa, Commissioner Cele called him a “monkey.” It did not help to calm those old colonial hurts and prejudices.
The next day Dewani appeared before the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London. He was granted bail, but before he could leave the courtroom, Watson succeeded in having the judge’s consent for the bail withdrawn. Consequently, Dewani, looking devastated and in deep shock, was driven to London’s Wandsworth Prison. He was to remain incarcerated until an extradition decision was made. A fellow inmate was WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange also awaiting a decision about extradition.
A day later bail was granted to Dewani after all.
The Dewani family made a $388,000 bail surety payment and could take Dewani, fitted with an electronic tag, back to Bristol. He would be on a home curfew which he could break just once a day in order to report to the local police.
PR guru, Max Clifford, said that the family was very pleased with the decision to grant bail and that Dewani would continue with his bereavement and trauma counselling.
Through his lawyer Dewani made it clear that he would fight extradition to South Africa. That he had no intention of returning to South Africa voluntarily.
Ami Denborg, 32, Anni’s sister, said from her home in Sweden that if Dewani were guilty then “what he has done is unforgivable.” Speaking to the London daily The Independent she would not however be drawn into a debate on whether her family thought that he was guilty. The Hindocha and the Dewani families no longer had any contact; their last communication had been before Tongo had accused Shrien Dewani in the Cape Town court of having staged the murder of Anni.
On New Year’s Day, at his home in Sweden, Vinod Hindocha, in speaking to the London daily The Mirror of the sadness at having ended the year without Anni, also would not accuse his son-in-law of his daughter’s murder.
He said: “If he didn’t do it, what is he afraid of? If he loved her as much as he says he did then he should go back to South Africa and identify her killers.”
The extradition hearing should be heard in London within the next few weeks and the South African police believe that they have a strong case against Dewani.
“He’s in a dreadful, dreadful state. He desperately wishes he had never gone to South Africa on his honeymoon. He has cooperated fully with the South African authorities and answered all of their questions,” PR guru Max Clifford said of his client.
In December, after the allegation that Shrien Dewani had some link to the murder of Dr Raghavjee, Clifford had told the Daily Mail: “How flimsy and ridiculous this whole thing is. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be a farce, a comedy.”
As yet, no one has laughed.
Not the Hindocha family, not the Dewani family, and certainly not Shrien Dewani who on December 29 turned 31. Ahead of him lay the task of clearing his name.
A legal labyrinth with endless twists and turns
The first Christmas after Anni Dewani’s murder passed, and so did the New Year.
Shrien Dewani never left his luxurious Bristol home and his electronic tag never signalled an alert.
At the end of January, the beautiful old colonial city of Cape Town, baking under a merciless African sun, a preliminary hearing was held at the court in the suburb of Wynberg. The two accused, Mngeni and Qwabe, did not attend the hearing; they were represented by their respective lawyers.
In an affidavit read in court by Captain Hendrikse, the case’s senior investigating officer, Qwabe admitted that while he was driving the hijacked car after Shrien had been thrown out he had heard a shot - one single shot –coming from the rear seat where Mngeni was sitting beside Anni. Qwabe said that he became very nervous and pulled the car up at the side of the road. He jumped from the vehicle and saw Mngeni on all fours on the rear seat looking for the bullet shell. He went to help him, found the shell, and threw it into a drain which he passed while running away.
Captain Hendrikse made no mention in court of the fact that Qwabe had denied in his testimony to the police that there had been a plot hatched by Shrien Dewani to have his wife, Anni, killed. The omission was pointed out by the London-based The Daily Mail which wrote: “When the gun suddenly went off, it came as a total shock to him (Qwabe). If they had planned to kill her, then surely they would have done it somewhere where they could properly dispose of the weapon? And for that matter, hide the body?” The daily was obviously on Shrien Dewani’s side.
Never really out of the media’s eye, Shrien grabbed the headlines yet again in the middle of February. He was rushed to hospital after collapsing at home. It was reported that he had attempted suicide. This was however immediately denied by his family. He was, said PR guru Max Clifford, suffering from post-traumatic stress. Soon however the media would report that he had swallowed 46 prescription pills with the intension to die. His extradition hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, would be held nonetheless.
On Monday, March 21, at a preliminary extradition hearing, the London court, reacting to a psychiatric report of Shrien’s mental state, ordered him to check into a psychiatric clinic. He booked into the five-star Bristol-based psychiatric clinic, The Priory, as celebrities like supermodel Kate Moss, singer Robbie Williams and the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood have done in the past. He would have to continue to wear the electronic tag.
In South Africa, meanwhile, the police told the media that their investigation into Anni’s murder was “largely finalized” and that they were confident that Shrien would be extradited to stand trial in Cape Town for masterminding his wife’s murder.
Shrien’s sojourn at the clinic did not last long. On Monday, April 11, he was moved, apparently with his consent, from the clinic to a secure mental hospital, The Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke that overlooks the Bristol Channel.
What had happened at The Priory?
“He’s not been very happy. There have been some dramas” was what PR guru Clifford gave the media as explanation.
The truth was somewhat different as the media would report over the following days.
Shrien had become loud and noisy and, according to a mental health worker who was not identified, he had hurled a plate at another patient during an argument. He had also thrown a cushion at a nurse. “The other patients are frightened of him. They have told me that they are intimidated,” the health worker told the London tabloid, The Sun. The paper also reported that Shrien had stormed from the clinic in a rage and had gone home breaking one of his bail conditions.
His stay at The Cygnet was equally short. Within a fortnight, sectioned by a court in London under the Mental Health Act, he was transferred to the secure unit of Blackberry Hill Hospital near Bristol. The Cygnet had been unable to cope with his increasingly erratic and aggressive behavior.
On Tuesday, May 3, the extradition hearing opened in London’s Belmarsh Magistrate’s Court as planned, but without Shrien. The hearing was adjourned that same day until a later date, perhaps in July, or until such time that a psychiatric evaluation would declare him corpus mentis.
In South Africa the media began to prepare for the Wednesday, June 1, trial of Mngeni and Qwabe. Winter had arrived early in Cape Town and a cold breeze swept a fine drizzle on to the lenses of the photograhers waiting outside the Wynberg courthouse.
Only Qwabe arrived at the courthouse from the maximum security Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town and was taken down to the cells to await being summoned to the courtroom.
Where was Mngeni?
No one – police, guards, lawyers and prosecutors – appeared to know.
Amid consternation throughout the courthouse that the country’s police could “lose” an inmate, a search was launched for him throughout the building. He was nowhere to be found.
An hour later, Qwabe still locked up downstairs in a cell, the prosecutors announced that they had discovered Mngeni’s whereabouts after having contacted Pollsmoor. Mngeni had been taken ill and had been transferred from his cell to the prison’s hospital. He had a severe headache and was disorientated.
The trial was adjourned to Monday, June 13.
The South African and English media did not fail to unravel the facts of Mngeni’s “sudden” illness.
It had not been sudden at all.
In the middle of March, Mngeni had begun to complain of headaches and started to behave like someone who had had too many drinks. Taken to the prison’s hospital and from there to Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital where Professor Christiaan Barnard had performed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967, he had undergone surgery to drain fluid from his brain. An MRI brain scan had then revealed that he had a malignant brain tumor. When he was supposed to be in court for the start of his trial, he was awaiting further surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital to remove the tumor. Radiotherapy was awaiting him.
The Qwabe/Mngeni trial has been rescheduled for Monday, June 13, but few legal and medical experts in South Africa and England believe that Mngeni would be able to stand trial. Described as seriously ill he would more likely be lying close to death in the hospital.
The legal experts also believe that after the Mngeni muddle which points to incompetence on the part of the South African police, no British court would agree to extradite Shrien to South Africa to stand trial there. The British would not trust the evidence that the South Africans would provide of Shrien’s guilt.
Anni’s family and friends in England, Sweden and India, are however praising the South African police for how they had conducted their investigation, but they feel frustrated and angry at what they think is Shrien hiding the facts of what had happened that night in Cape Town. Some of them have openly voiced their thoughts to the media. Others have chosen to do so anonymously.
From what they said, the newly-wed Anni, it appears, had something troubling on her mind which she was going to discuss with her family on her return from the South African safari honeymoon.
One of those who wanted to remain anonymous was a girl friend of Anni’s who lives in Mumbai, India, where Anni and Shrien were married.
She told the London tabloids that she and Anni exchanged SMS (text) messages on November 7 – six days before the murder. She asked Anni: “How r u? How r things?” and Anni replied: “im ok, crying has become my new hobby.”
This friend also told the media that Anni had thrown her engagement ring at Shrien eight days before their Mumbai wedding. Anni had then told her that she was “glad it was over” and that she and Shrien were “just not compatible.”
There were talk about Shrien’s feelings too.
The German sadomasochist male hooker – he was identified by the English police as Munich-born Leopold Leisser, 39 years old – said in the extradition hearing of May 3, that Shrien had told him that he wanted to “find a way out” of marrying Anni.
He said that in April 2010, in other words seven months before the lavish Mumbai wedding ceremony, Dewani, a client, told him that although Anni was “a nice, lovely girl who he liked” he did not want to marry her but that he could not “break out of the engagement” because he would be disowned by his family. “He went on to say he needed to find a way out of it,” said the hooker. The “it” was the marriage to Anni. Shrien had already “broken out” of an engagement. Before he had met Anni he had become betrothed to the daughter of the Indian tycoon Bhupendra Kansagra, owner of the budget airline, Spicejet. No details have been leaked to the media why that romance had ended.
The South African police are adamant that they have established “without reasonable doubt” that Shrien Dewani, having failed to find a way out of his engagement, had found a “way out” of his marriage. It was murder.
But someone is as adamant that Shrien Dewani is innocent. He is Kamlesh Vyas from the Bristol mosque where Shrien worshiped and who has known him for 10 years. Speaking of Shrien, he told the English media: “You couldn’t think of him killing even a fly.”
Ashok Hindocha, Anni’s uncle, on the contrary, told London’s The Daily Mail when referring to how Shrien had not defended Anni: “I would not even have allowed my dog to be left like that. I would fight for the dog. I would never in my life have done that. He could have punched them, he could have done anything to resist.”
On Saturday, May 14, Anni’s ashes were scattered onto the waters of a lake near Mariestad in Sweden where she was born and grew up. The Hindochas made the Dewanis understand that they were not to attend the ceremony.
Anish Hindocha, Anni’s brother, cradled the urn on his lap for the journey by boat out over the lake.
“This is where Anni belongs,” said Vinod Hindocha, Anni’s father, after the scattering of his daughter’s ashes.
But where does Shrien Dewani belong? In a secure mental asylum? In a jail? Or in an office running his family’s care home business, a totally innocent man?
On Monday, June 13, as expected, only Qwabe turned up for the scheduled trial. Earlier, the court had received a certificate from Groote Schuur Hospital confirming that Mngeni had undergone surgery to remove the malignant tumor from his brain and was still one of its patients.
Ashok Hindocha, Anni’s uncle, had made the long flight from London to Cape Town for the trial. He told reporters: “We would like to thank everyone, including the South African police and judicial system for their support of our family.”
None of the Dewanis had made the trip.
Chief Magistrate Jackie Redelinghuis told the court that a Groote Schuur Hospital assessment of Mngeni’s condition stated that he would be fit to stand trial within two months.
Redelinghuis then postponed the trial until Tuesday, August 2.
The South African police are confident that on that day Shrien Dewani, having been extradited, would be under lock and key in a Cape Town jail.
But no: No trial yet
Tuesday, August 2, arrived.
The Cape Town police and prosecutors had long faces; there were two absentees in court. One was Shrien Dewani and the other was the ill Xolile Mngeni.
On Tuesday, July 19, in Shrien’s rescheduled extradition hearing in Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in London, the court had heard his lawyers describe him as suicidal and certain to kill himself should he be extradited. Shrien was in court looking bloated and obviously an unwell man. The judge had ruled that because of Shrien’s mental state he would postpone the extradition hearing. A new hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, August 10. Shrien was taken back to the secure unit of Blackberry Hill Hospital near Bristol.
As for Xolile Mngeni, despite the surgery which he had undergone and the chemotherapy he was receiving, his brain tumor, known as pineoblastoma, was killing him. According to medical reports read out in court that Tuesday, August 2, he had visual abnormalities and visual hallucinations and even if the treatment he was receiving would remove the cancer, he would not ever be in a “medical state that would enable him to answer charges in court.” The treatment he was undergoing was in fact palliative.
Qwabe, alone in the dock and, as his lawyer had pointed out, manifesting symptoms of severe stress at the length of time the case was taking to be heard, was driven back to his jail cell, his stress magnified having learned that his trial and that of co-accused Mngeni had yet again been postponed.
The two’s new trial was scheduled for Tuesday, September 20, although no one really thought that Mngeni would on that date be able to face justice.
However, Anni Dewani’s relatives and friends, and the tens of thousands from all over the world who had become interested in her brutal slaying on what was her honeymoon, and who were seeking justice for her, did not surrender hope that on Shrien’s next extradition hearing on August 10, the judge would rule that he should be extradited to South Africa.
On August 10, the judge did.
Anni’s family and friends sat silently on the hard bunks in Court Number Three at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court listening to District Judge Howard Riddle read out his statement. At the end of two hours of listening, the air hot and heavy both in court and on the street outside, they heard the judge’s decision. Shrien could be extradited to South Africa. The judge had found his lawyers’ argument that he suffered from post-traumatic stress, depression, and might even be mentally ill as not a reason for him not to be extradited. The judge had also dismissed the lawyers’ argument that the “good-looking, youthful and physically well-preserved” Shrien would be targeted by inmates suffering from AIDS. He said that he was confident that Shrien would be held in a single cell in one of South Africa’s best prisons.
However, the rejoicing at the verdict abruptly ended when the media pointed out that the judge’s ruling was not final. It was for Home Secretary Theresa May to make the final decision and this could take her weeks even months as she would have to study the bulky Dewani dossier.(Ms May’s equivalent in the U.S.A. is Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior at the Department of the Interior; she is responsible for internal affairs.) And, even should she confirm the judge’s verdict, Shrien’s lawyers were bound to lodge an appeal in London’s High Court. Also, Shrien would not be extradited to stand trial, but for interrogation by the South African police, and they would have to establish without reasonable doubt that he had organized his bride’s slaying. Then only would he stand trial.
Meanwhile, the case dragging on, rumors continued to circulate about Shrien’s sexuality and the doubts Anni had expressed about his virility. Neither wanted to go through with the marriage, but they felt that their parents had spent so much money on the wedding that they had to go through with it.
The rumor of Shrien’s homosexuality also gained confirmation when one of the South African investigators leaked the testimony of the girl Shrien had been engaged to before Anni - Rani Kansagra, today 26, the daughter of wealthy Bhupendra Kansagra, owner of the lowcost airline, Spicejet – to the South African media. Immediately the London tabloids front-paged the story.
Miss Kansagra had told the South African police why her 2009 engagement to Shrien had ended. She said that he was the one who had broken off their engagement. He had done so after just a few days. He had told her that he was sexually impotent and would therefore not be able to have sex with her.
South African and British authorities make their decisions
On the morning of Tuesday, September 20, Mngeni, still under treatment for his ‘incurable’ brain cancer, shuffled into court on the arm of Qwabe for the scheduled court appearance to reassess whether he would be fit to stand trial.
There was a feeling of déjà vu as the two friends stepped into the box of the accused. Very soon the two were back in the police vehicle that would return them to their cells. Neither Magistrate Jackie Redelinghuis or Chief Prosecutor Rodney de Kock and his assistant Deputy Prosecutor Adrian Mopp had mentioned Mngeni’s illness during the appearance. Not even once had they done so. They had, on the contrary, announced him fit to stand trial with Qwabe.
A date for the trial was not set, but Magistrate Redelinghuis scheduled a pre-trial hearing at the Cape Town High Court for Friday, February 10, 2012. It would be a hearing to confirm that Mngeni was indeed fit to stand trial.
With Mngeni and Qwabe’s fate decided – or almost – the Dewani family awaited Home Secretary Theresa May’s decision on Shrien’s extradition to South Africa.
On Monday, September 26, Ms May announced her decision to Shrien’s lawyers and his family, but the news was released to the media only four days later. Ms May had, after “careful consideration of all relevant matters,” decided that Shrien will be extradited to South Africa. She had accordingly signed the extradition order.
British law however allows an accused the chance to appeal an extradition order. Shrien has 14 days dating from September 26 to do so.
Will he appeal?
Yes, he did, and he wasted no time to have done so.
The English law firm Hickman and Rose lodged an appeal on his behalf on Friday, September 30. A spokesperson for the law firm, claiming that their client has always maintained his innocence and his intention to clear his name of all the false allegations which have been made against him, said that he remained too unwell to return to South Africa. He explained: “Mr. Dewani’s condition would worsen if he were to be extradited to South Africa where bail would be unlikely and where a number of serious risks to his life and safety have been identified.” He did not say what the serious risks were.
It could take two to three months before the appeal could be heard at the British High Court and should Shrien lose it, he could take his case to the Supreme Court, and if the extradition order is again confirmed, then he could take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
If this is the road Shrien Dewani will choose to take then Anni’s family and their on-line supporters who had taken a petition signed by 11,510 angry people to Ms May to request her to extradite Shrien, might have to wait some time still – a couple of years even – for justice.
Shrien wins appeal
On Friday, March 30, Shrien Dewani learned that the British High Court has temporarily halted his extradition to South Africa.
Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, said that although it is “plainly in the interest that Dewani be tried in South Africa” his mental state does not allow him currently to stand trial. Sir John explained that to extradite him to South Africa would be “unjust and oppressive” and that if he remained in Britain there were “increased prospects of a speedier recovery” from his mental problems.
So eager were the South African authorities to have Shrien back in South Africa that they even said that he could serve his sentence in England if found guilty in a Cape Town court of having masterminded his bride’s murder. However, a spokesperson for the British Ministry of Justice dismissed the idea by pointing out that no prisoner transfer agreement existed between Britain and South Africa and for that matter with any other country.
Ami Denborg, Anni’s sister, told reporters outside the court that her family now wished Shrien a speedy recovery so that he could return to South Africa and “finally tell us what happened because we want to know the truth.”
A spokesperson for the Dewani family claimed that the family too wished for Shrien’s recovery and said, “He is innocent and is determined to return to South Africa to clear his name and seek justice for his wife Anni.”
After resisting extradition for three years to South Africa and then deemed mentally fit to stand trial,Dewani was brought to trial in October of 2014. On December 9, 2014 he won acquital. In setting Dewani free, Judge Jeanette Traverso of the Western Cape High Court ruled that the prosecution had failed to present any "evidence on which a reasonable court can convict the acused" and that the prosecution's case "cannot pass legal muster."
During trial, the prosecutors claimed Dewani paid 15,000 rand (about $1,300) to have three men kill his wife in a contrived carjacking. They said his motive was that he was gay and had been pressured by his family to marry against his will.
Those three men were previously convicted of Anni Dewani's murder. As part of a plea deal to shorten their sentences, they agreed to testify against Dewani. One of the convicted died before trial, but the other two were the star witnesses for the prosecution. The judge found their testimony "far below" the legal threshold for credible testimony.
Outside the courthouse, the family of the victim expressed outrage at the verdict. Following close on the heels of the lenient verdict given to Oscar Pistorius, the impression that wealthy defendants are immune from justice in South Africa was reinforced.