A wan murder accused Shrien Dewani stared vacantly ahead as Hawks investigator Paul Hendrikse took the witness stand yesterday setting out how he had first come to suspect Dewani as the mastermind behind the killing of his young wife. Two emotional emails from Anni written only five days before she was murdered and in which she threatened to leave Dewani were also handed to the court. By MARIANNE THAMM.
Until this week Shrien Dewani has been reasonably perky as he has sat in the dock of Court 2 in the Cape High Court facing charges of masterminding the kidnapping and murder of his wife Anni in November 2010. The Bristol businessman, dressed always in a black suit, usually briskly walks up the steps from the cells below the Cape High Court around 10am before taking his seat for the day.
But with the trial now in its sixth week Dewani appears to be taking strain. So far, Dewani has been listening to the testimony of the 14 or so witnesses who have taken the stand with keen interest. He has been relatively animated, cocking his head when he has trouble hearing, frowning, smiling, occasionally crying or fiddling with a pencil while taking notes. Dewani has also occasionally made eye contact with the press bench, sometimes mouthing that a piece of evidence is “important”.
Yesterday as Hawks investigator Captain Paul Hendrickse took the stand Dewani appeared unusually subdued and disinterested, staring vacantly ahead, his eyes fixed on a spot just below Judge Jeaneatte Traverso’s bench as Hendrickse set out how he had first come to suspect Dewani.
Judge Traverso seemed particularly tetchy yesterday and lashed out several times at state prosecutor Adrian Mopp as he attempted to lead Hendrickse through his evidence. She barked at Mopp to stick to “facts, hard facts”. When Mopp attempted to refer to other suspects – a certain Mawewe – who had originally been implicated in the case, Judge Traverso warned him “you are pushing me to the point where I will do something. You have had four years to investigate. I have no doubt that the investigation was complete by the time the accused arrived in South Africa or should have been”.
The first suspect to be arrested on 16 November, two days after the killing, was Xolile Mngeni, who was tracked down after a palm print had been lifted from the bonnet of Zola Tongo’s VW Sharan that had been used to transport the Dewani couple that weekend. Mngeni was later sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 and died last month after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour while awaiting trial in 2011.
Hendrickse said he had taken his first formal statement from Dewani on 15 November 2010 after he had given an initial statement to Warrant Officer Stephanus in the early hours of the morning on 14 November, before Anni’s body had been discovered.
Dewani had said he had been in a “state of shock” at the time and had wanted to make amendments.
Hendrickse told the court while Dewani’s demeanour had initially been calm, he had become “uneasy” and had “paced the room” when he had questioned him about the rings that the two robbers had allegedly taken.
Dewani had originally told police he had begged the robbers not to kill them in return for handing over Anni’s rings. But the following day Dewani had telephoned Hendrickse to inform him that police should look for Anni’s wedding ring in the “stitching” of the back seat where she had hidden it.
Hendrikse said his suspicions had been aroused because Dewani had told him where to find the ring after initially stating he had handed these to the robbers and that the ring was “the last thing she had”.
While driver Zola Tongo had originally given a false statement to police, not revealing his hand in the fake hijacking and murder, Hendrickse took another full statement on 17 November. It was while taking this statement, the policeman said, that he had begun to suspect Tongo. He had been “puzzled” by the driver’s behaviour on the night.
“Firstly I thought Mr Tongo was a black taxi driver that knew locations and secondly that he would drive into an area at that time of night and also that Mr Tongo should have known at that time that Mzoli’s is closed and that puzzled me. Mzoli’s close at 6.30 to 7pm in the evening. That Mr Tongo had been pushed out of the vehicle and the accused pushed out later stage; that they drove off with the deceased.”
In spite of Hendrickse’s nagging doubts, Dewani was allowed to return to the UK with his wife’s body. On 19 November Zola Tongo and another hitman, Mziwamdoda Qwabe, were arrested and appeared in court on 22 November, a day after Anni’s funeral.
At the time of Tongo’s arrest Dewani had spoken to Hendrickse telephonically and had expressed his surprise at the arrest.
“Why the taxi driver? Was he involved?” Hendrickse said Dewani had asked.
Anni’s Blackberry, which had been stolen during the robbery, had been recovered, and had been sent to the UK for investigation a month later. It was when two emails were recovered, said Hendrickse, that his suspicions about Dewani had been confirmed.
The emails were both handed to the court yesterday and were written by Anni on 5 November, about a week before her murder. The subject of the mail is “Things to get ready”, clearly referring to the couple’s trip to South Africa. The matter that the couple had argued about was not disclosed to the court.
In the first email, time stamped at 10:45, Anni wrote, “Even if it feels much better now, I have to get things cleared up in my mind. I left my home and family and everything to be with you, and three days later you say that if you knew marriages were like this you wouldn’t get married. Seriously, do you want me to leave you? It’s very mean of you to tell me things that you told me just after the marriage, then you should have told me this before!!! I don’t want an insecure man or a man that feelings doesn’t come natural [sic] that you have to force yourself. I never expected things like that from you but now I want you to tell me exactly how you feel and honestly u hurt me a lot by this and I am ready to pack and leave and this is not a joke! I can’t even sleep at nights.”
The second email handed to the court and written at 11.01 on 5 November read: “You did say if u saw in a chrystal ball [sic] how this marriage would been like then you wouldn’t got married. That is not mean? Or okey not mean if that is how you feel and yes of course it effects me as you said it after the marriage. I am letting this go but if there is anything I should know about or if you feel anything neg about us I want to know. Because we had a bollywood wedding doesn’t mean we r bollywood actors and just pretending everything is good when it isn’t will just end up with us hating eachother”.
Later, during cross-examination by Dewani’s senior counsel, Francois van Zyl, Dewani’s reply to Anni was handed to the court.
Written at 3:50 on the morning of 5 November it read: “Honestly I would never have told you if it was going to affect you like this. You wanted me to be honest with you so I was.
1. I did NOT say I regret things. I said very clearly that I did not expect to feel the way I was feeling.
2. When I said it was not natural and was forcing myself – we were talking about not feeling happy. Not that I was forcing myself to be with you. They are very different comments and seriously you cannot just take a meaning that you want. You need to listen to what I meant.
3. I love you. You know that. Surely this is the most important thing. The rest will come.
4. I was not being mean to you. And in fact your own words were ‘It makes me happy that you are admitting that you feel the same’…so does that mean you were being mean to me…?
You started by saying things are better. They are better because we actually talked about things instead of pretending all the time…This is how it should be!
Hendrickse said this was the first time he had read Dewani’s reply and that he could “not dispute” that it placed things in a different context with regard to Anni’s mails.
Hendrikse went on to testify that Dewani had not mentioned several vital issues that he had brought up later, including the proposed helicopter trip or that Anni had been carrying R10,000 cash in her handbag on the night of the hijacking. These were important aspects of the case, said Hendrickse, which would have altered the nature of the investigation from the start.
“If he had told me about the money or the helicopter trip Mr Tongo would have become a suspect. There would have been a motive for Mr Tongo to rob Mr Dewani and in my investigation I would have been more focused on Tongo. As far as I can see, this version of Mr Dewani is fabricated,” said Hendrickse.
“That is merely your view. At the end of the day the court must decide that,” Judge Traverso interjected.
Earlier Van Zyl had attempted to suggest that Hendrickse was biased and that he had not conducted his investigation objectively. Hendrickse, said Van Zyl, had befriended two of Anni’s cousins on Facebook and had also posted comments about the case.
Hendrickse denied that he had posted the comments – which have been quoted in journalist Dan Newling’s book Bitter Dawn – saying his account had been hacked in 2011. DM
Photo: British businessman Shrien Dewani sits in the dock before the start of his trial at the Western Cape High Court, Cape Town, South Africa, 06 October 2014. EPA/MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL