British businessperson Shrien Dewani, who is charged with killing his wife Anni during their honeymoon in Cape Town, had hormone problems and underwent testosterone replacement therapy.
“I decided to undergo this treatment despite the side-effects. Having my own family was important to me,” he explained in a plea document at the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Dewani earlier pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife Anni in Cape Town in 2010, and other related charges.
An endocrinologist told him in 2009 that he had abnormally low levels of the hormone and might have trouble reproducing.
He was warned of the side-effects, including the risk of blood clots, sleep apnoea, breast enlargement, weight gain and acne.
“I discussed my problem with Anni as I knew that she wanted children as well,” he said.
In the plea document, Dewani said he was bisexual and had sexual interactions with both men and women.
“My sexual interactions with males were mostly physical experiences or e-mail chats with people I met online or in clubs,” his lawyer Francois van Zyl said, reading out Dewani’s plea explanation in court.
“My sexual interactions with females were usually during the course of a relationship which consisted of other activities and emotional attachment.”
He met his wife Anni Hindocha on May 30 2009 after a mutual friend gave him her contact details. In his plea explanation, he said he was instantly physically attracted to her on their first date, loved her bubbly personality and sensed there was mutual chemistry.
“We were both ambitious and shared a common view on our future. We were both headstrong and often argued with each other,” he explained.
Dewani is charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and conspiracy to commit these crimes. He is also charged with defeating the ends of justice.
Speaking from the dock, Dewani said he was “not guilty” of charges of murder, kidnapping and obstructing justice. “I plead not guilty to all five counts,” he said in a clear voice.
Dewani, dressed in a black suit, tie and white shirt, stood in the dock and looked down at prosecutor Adrian Mopp.
Both the families of Dewani and his dead wife were in attendance, sitting on opposite ends of the courtroom.
Initially seen as a hijacking that ended in tragedy on November 13 2010, police later claimed they had evidence that Dewani had conspired with others to kill Anni.
Dewani claims the couple were hijacked as they were being driven through Gugulethu in Cape Town in a minibus taxi. He was released unharmed but Anni was driven away and later found shot dead in the abandoned minibus on November 14.
A series of delays played out over the next four years, punctuated by efforts to extradite Dewani to South Africa and consistent claims by his defence team that he was innocent, and mentally unfit to stand trial.
In the same period, three Capetonians stood trial for the murder and were jailed. Driver Zola Tongo said in a plea bargain – following which he was jailed for 18 years – that Dewani had offered him R15 000 to have Anni killed. Accomplices Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni – who shot Anni – were handed 25-year and life sentences respectively.
Dewani was eventually extradited in April this year and sent to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital. In mid-August, he was declared fit to stand trial after undergoing psychiatric observation. He will remain at the hospital for the duration of the trial.
In the plea explanation handed to the court and read out by his lawyer, Dewani said his description of the fatal day was based on what he could remember from November 2010.
“As a consequence of the traumatic experience which resulted in the loss of my wife, I have been hospitalised for over three years and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. This, and the resultant flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks, have affected my memory and impacted on my ability to precisely and chronologically recall events concerning the terrible incident. Nevertheless, I will set out the facts as I recall them today.”
He said he and Anni were chatting about possible nightlife and their taxi exited the highway towards a place starting with a ‘G’, presumably referring to Gugulethu. He heard banging noises coming from the front and right-hand side of the car, and loud shouting in a language he did not understand. Someone next to him told him 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 the demands.” Dewani said he lay half on top of Anni and pleaded for them to be allowed to go. He remembered his watch being taken off and the gun-wielding person taking his money. He hid his phone in his pants pocket.
He said Anni whispered to him in Gujarati that she was hiding her wedding rings between the car seats. The man with the gun asked if he had a phone, found it in his pants and got angry. He threatened to shoot Dewani if he lied again and Dewani explained that he was scared because he had never been close to a real gun before.
The vehicle stopped momentarily and then sped off again. He noticed the driver wore yellow gloves. Anni screamed and they instructed Dewani to keep her quiet. “The driver said that they were not going to hurt us. They just wanted the car and they were going to let us go separately. I begged them to let us go together.”
Dewani was told that Anni would be dropped off at the police station. They put a gun to his head and said they would shoot him if he did not get out. He tried to open the door. A window was opened and he recalled 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,” he explained. He got help from someone in the neighbourhood and was taken back to his hotel by a police officer who said they would get the vehicle’s registration number from closed-circuit television footage.
He signed a document that police gave to him and did not pay much attention. He said he saw taxi driver Zola Tongo later and he appeared shocked by what had happened. The following morning, he was told Anni had been found shot dead, causing his whole world “to come crashing down”.
He took pills and fell asleep for the rest of the day. He later identified her body and was given her wedding ring and other items. The following Tuesday, he spoke to Tongo and said he sounded down because he was being chased by the media and had lost his car. “I felt sorry for him and decided I would give him R1 000.”
He bought handmade cards and put one card and the money in a carrier bag. He asked Tongo to come to the hotel where he would not be hounded by media. Dewani thanked him for his help, gave him the bag in the communication centre of the hotel and shook his hand. He flew back to the United Kingdom that evening. “I deny being guilty of the offences for which I have been charged,” he stated at the end of the explanation. – Sapa