"I was brought up to believe British justice is the best in the world, so it is very hard to understand why we are still here. I am the mother of a murdered daughter. How long do I have to wait?"
Nilam Hindocha, Anni Dewani's mother
It was the 13th of November 2010. A Saturday. Twenty eight year old Anni Hindocha Dewani was on honeymoon with her thirty year old husband Shrien Dewani. Anni was from Sweden and she met Shrien in London in 2009 after a mutual contact gave Shrien Anni's details and he arranged a date. They later moved in together into a house in Bristol, United Kingdom.
Shrien said that he was instantly attracted to Anni and she was just as ambitious as he was and he couldn't wait for them to build a future together. The relationship wasn't care free. There were things that they had to overcome together and issues that caused arguments between them. According to Shrien, he had abnormally low levels of hormones, so his chances of having children were slim, and he decided to undergo testosterone replacement therapy. It was a tough time for the couple but he believed they were stronger for it and he decided to propose to Anni.
A little over a year after they met, Shrien flew Anni to Paris on a private jet and proposed to her. When she said yes, he arranged a stag party in Las Vegas, United States. They later married in Mumbai in India in a lavish $250,000 wedding. It was an extravagant affair and their honeymoon was supposed to be idyllic too. They chose to spend a few weeks in Cape Town, South Africa for their luxury five star honeymoon.
That night, the 13th of November, Shrien and Anni went for dinner at a hotel in Cape Town. They were seen by others at the hotel where they were staying posing for pictures. They looked like any other couple on their honeymoon. They held hands, kissed and laughed. But their joy wasn't to last. They waited for their cab at their hotel and after they were collected, they went to Gugulethu, a township near Cape Town, to tour the area.
At midnight that night, a distressed Shrien asked for help. He was found in Harare. Shrien told police that the cab they were traveling in had been hijacked. The driver was removed from the vehicle and two men got in. Shrien and Anni were held at gunpoint. The men released Shrien but they still had Anni and he had no idea where they were.
Shrien Dewani and Anni Dewani
When police spoke to Shrien, he told them that he met a man who drove a cab called Zola Tongo. Zola told him he was also an “executive tour guide” and Shrien told police that he sought his help in exchanging money to local currency and asked him to organize a private helicopter flight. He also asked him to be their local tour guide. According to Shrien, he went for dinner that night with Anni and then Zola picked them up. There was no concrete plan for the rest of the evening so they decided to tour the area and see "what Africa is really like."
Shrien told police that when they turned off a motorway:
“The next thing I remember was banging noises coming from the front and the right hand side of the car. There was a lot of shouting in a language I did not understand. The next thing I recall is somebody next to me who told me to lie down. This person had a gun in his hand; I cannot recall which hand. He was waving the gun in the air. He shouted: ‘Look down! Lie down!’ We were both terrified and we immediately complied with his demands. I was lying half on top of Anni. Another person was behind the steering wheel."
Shrien told police that one of the men took his phone and put the gun to his head. He told him not to lie or he would shoot him. As this was happening, according to Shrien, they were still traveling in the car and the car stopped when they got to a small road. They ordered Shrien to get out of the car. He asked if Anni could leave too but they said they would bring her to a police station. They told Shrien if he didn't get out they would shoot him so he got out. He told police:
“I tried to open the door but it would not open. I recall the window opening. I recall hitting the ground and the car speeding away. The last thing I had said to Anni was to be quiet and not to say anything. I said this to her in Gujarati.”
That was the last time Shrien saw Anni and he had no idea where the car went after he got out. All he knew was that there were two men who still had Anni inside the car. Shrien told police that he knocked on doors seeking help and two police officers were called to the scene and he was taken to a police station.
A day later, the car was found and Anni's body was inside. She was found on the back seat of the cab and had been shot in the neck. Police had to establish why they would let Shrien go but keep and then later kill Anni. Shrien returned to the United Kingdown shortly after Anni's death.
Initially, the investigation moved at pace. Three days after Anni's body was found, twenty six year old Xolile Mngeni was arrested and charged with murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and kidnapping. His palm print was found on the car and that was what led police to him. A few days later, thirty one year old Zola Tonga, who was the driver of the cab, and twenty six year old Mziwamadoda Qwabe were charged with murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and kidnapping. A tip off by an informant led police to Mziwamadoda.
Zola denied being involved and told police that he was ambushed and removed from the car. But when confronted with the evidence the police had, he confessed and told them he was involved.
The three men initially told police that the plan was a robbery that went wrong and that Anni was shot accidentally during a struggle for her handbag. A fourth man, Monde Mbolombo, was later arrested for his involvement in helping to organize the robbery. The men later told police that Shrien Dewani was also involved in the crime.
Zola told police that he met Shrien and was offered 15,000 rand ($2100) by Shrien to kill Anni. According to Zola, he then spoke to a friend about arranging a hitman and was put in touch with Xolile and Mziwamadoda.It was a statement that shocked Shrien's family but further investigation revealed that even though the couple appeared happy on their honeymoon, that was not the full story. Emails were found that Anni had sent to Shrien which suggested that there were frequent arguments and Anni stated that she was unhappy and wanted to pack her bags and leave. But why would Shrien want Anni dead? Police discovered that Shrien led a secret life and had used the services of male prostitutes. Shrien admitted he used gay websites and paid male prostitutes for sex but he said that he was bisexual and loved his wife and did not want their marriage to end and he denied having any involvement in Anni's murder.
Police in the United Kingdom arrested Shrien at the request of the South African authorities on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. Shrien denied that he was involved in his wife's murder and said that he would not agree to return to South Africa for a Trial. Due to that, extradition proceedings began so that he could be compelled to return. That was the beginning of what would be a lengthy legal process.
Before Shrien was extradited to South Africa, the other men were sentenced for their part in the crime. Zola was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. Mziwamadoda was sentenced to twenty five years in prison and Xolile was sentenced to life in prison. It was determined that Xolile was the person who fired the shot that killed Anni and at his sentencing hearing, the Judge referred to him as an evil person.
Back in the United Kingdom, the extradition proceedings took four years. Shrien's lawyers had argued that he couldn't go to South Africa as he was suffering from an acute stress disorder. The Court heard that he had taken a cocktail of 46 pills including diazepam. The extradition finally took place when the Court determined that his depression had eased.
He was extradited to South Africa and his Trial began.
It was the Prosecution's case that Shrien led a secret life, one that involved men, and he wanted a way out of his marriage. It was their case that he set up a contract killing and hired Zola to stage a hijacking which would involve him being released and Anni being killed.The Court was shown CCTV footage of Shrien handing over money to Zola. The footage showed Shrien looking up towards a hotel security camera before moving out of the frame. Other footage showed him carrying a bag which contained money and he walked towards a small room with Zola. Further footage showed him in the five star Cape Grace hotel where Zola is seen sitting on a leather couch. The footage shows them talking and Shrien asked a man cleaning windows to give them some privacy.
The Court heard from the Pathologist Dr Janette Verster in relation to the postmortem examination she carried out on Anni. The Court heard that there were gunshot wounds to Anni's left hand and her neck, which caused massive blood loss. She told the Court:
“In a few heartbeats, the deceased would have bled out.”
Dr Verster testified that the fatal shot was delivered at close range. She agreed that Anni may have been grabbing on to “someone or something” when she was shot.
It was the Defense's case that the case should be thrown out and they made a formal application for the case to be dismissed. Shrien did not testify but a statement was read out in Court in which he described himself as bisexual and admitted he had slept with male prostitutes but that he loved Anni and his "whole world came crashing down" following his wife's murder.
Shrien's lawyer, Francois van Zyl, put forward two possible versions that led to Anni’s death. The first was that it was a robbery gone wrong. The Court heard that there was forensic evidence which indicated that Anni may have been shot by accident as one of the hijackers tried to take her handbag. There was bruising on her inner leg which indicated a struggle had taken place and they argued that the bullet passed through her left hand, into her chest and the wound on her neck was actually an exit wound. This indicated that the shooting may not have been deliberate.
The second was that it was a bungled kidnap and ransom plot. A criminal named Bernard Mitchell claimed Zola told him about the plot in prison afterwards. The Court heard that he claimed he was told that the plan was to kidnap Anni and hold her hostage but it went off the rails.
The Court heard that Shrien did give 15000 rand in cash to Zola but it was for a helicopter ride, not payment to kill his wife. The Defense argued that nothing connected Shrien to the crime and that was why they asked for the case against him to be dismissed.
The Judge agreed. Cape Town Judge Jeanette Traverso said that it was for the Prosecution to prove that Shrien entered into an agreement with the three other men to have Anni killed and they failed to meet the threshold required to prove that was the case. Zola was the only accomplice witness and due to the plea deal, namely that he would have to serve less time in prison if he testified against Shrien, his testimony should be treated with "caution" and corroboration was necessary. She said that details such as where he picked up and dropped off Shrien and Anni did not provide that corroboration. She also said that the testimony of the three men was “riddled with inconsistencies” and was "so improbable, with so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies you cannot see where the lies ended and the truth begins."
The Judge told the Court that the evidence meant to connect Shrien to Anni’s murder was so poor that only a confession by Shrien could have led to a conviction.
The Judge ruled that as such, it was not necessary for Shrien to give evidence and that he was entitled to be discharged if there was no possibility of conviction unless he entered the witness box and incriminated himself.
Shrien left South Africa as a free man and returned to the United Kingdom. The murder charge against him was dismissed.
Anni's sister Ami Denberg addressed the media outside the Court:
"Today we feel as a family that the justice system has failed us and we are deeply disappointed. We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth and all we got was more questions. We waited patiently for four years to hear what really happened to Anni and to hear the full story of what happened to our dearest little sister. All we wanted was to hear all the events and the hope of actually finding that out has kept us, as a family, going. Unfortunately we believe that this right has now been taken away from us."
Anni's uncle, Ashok Hindocha, said:
"We would have preferred to have known about his sexuality before he married our precious Anni. She gave herself to him, mind, body and soul and she hoped to have been cherished and loved. But she would not have married him if she had known about his secret sex life with male prostitutes and the activities he engaged in."
According to Anni's family, Shrien has never reached out to them to tell them everything he knows about what happened to Anni. They have many questions that remain unanswered. Anni's father said:
"We still do not have the whole story of how it happened. We wanted to hear Shrien tell the Court in his own words. He was her husband. He was there. His lawyers repeated the words 'My client will tell the Court' during his Trial like a mantra, but then the Judge ended the case without Shrien going into the witness box. We never got that opportunity to hear what he had to say. My family would like to talk to him. If he has any respect for us, then he should come and see us and talk to us. After all, I am still his father-in-law and I gave him my daughter. He must help us."
Shrien still lives in the United Kingdom.
Xolile Mngeni died in prison in South Africa in 2014. He had been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor.
Leopold Leisser, the man referred to as The German Master at Shrien's Trial, was found hanged in his Birmingham home in November 2016.
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