‘Shrien never seemed to grieve for Anni’ – cousin

Dewani is accused of the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. He has pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him, maintaining that the couple were the victims of a hijacking on November 13, 2010.

The State alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000. Her body was found in an abandoned shuttle taxi in Khayelitsha on Sunday, November 14.

Sneha Mashru, formerly Hindocha, is the state’s eighth witness and described the relationship she had with her cousin to prosecutor Shareen Riley. “Anni and I, my lady, were more like sisters. Anni confided in me and told me things she would not tell her sister or brother. We told each other everything and anything. I knew everything about Anni. We knew we could always trust each other, my lady,” she said. 

The two used to speak on the phone or via text messages and e-mails. They grew up in Sweden together, went to the same high school and were a year apart in age. They graduated together and moved back to their hometown Mariestad. Anni got a job in Stockholm and Mashru remained in their hometown, but often stayed with her in Stockholm. 

Mashru moved to the United Kingdom for work in February 2010 and Anni joined her a month later. She said they always wanted to move to England and Anni wanted to get to know her boyfriend better.

Mashru said Shrien and Anni had a long-distance relationship between May 2009 and March 2010 and used to see each other about once a month. She met Shrien after the couple’s third date. “I thought at the time that Shrien was a nice guy. Shrien and I used to have contact if there was anything to do with Anni. We had a relationship where he was dating my cousin. I only e-mailed him when we were discussing wedding things and he wanted my opinion.” Shrien sometimes texted her. 

She said the couple broke up once in December 2009, after his second visit to Sweden. Riley asked why they broke up. At this point, Dewani’s lawyer Francois van Zyl said the evidence was moving into hearsay territory and he objected. 

Deputy Judge President Jeannette Traverso agreed the evidence was hearsay and asked Riley to motivate why it should be introduced. Riley said the evidence was about Mashru’s conclusion of the couple’s relationship and formed a key part of their case. Traverso said the court must guard against allowing hearsay evidence and disallowed it. Mashru said the couple contacted each other again around December 29 or 30 2009. Anni called him for his birthday and the relationship resumed.

Dewani didn’t want a hospital visit from Anni
Dewani fell ill a few days before his wedding in India and did not want his wife Anni to come and visit him in hospital, her cousin told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

“When Anni and I went to visit Shrien in hospital, he had told Anni that he did not want any visitors so Anni and I thought it would be nice for us to visit him as a surprise,” Mashru Riley. “When we arrived at the hospital, Shrien said to Anni: ‘What are you doing here? I told you not to visit me.’ Anni looked around the room and said: ‘What are all of them doing here?’. Shrien had his mother there, as an example.”

Mashru said she waited in a taxi cab for about five to 10 minutes while the couple argued a bit. Anni returned and was crying.

Mashru described Shrien’s behaviour as strange, in the period before and after the wedding and honeymoon. She met the couple in Bristol on November 7 2010, so she could introduce her then-boyfriend to them, as she and Anni had a rule that they had to meet each other’s partners before their families could meet them. 

“My lady, according to me, Shrien was on his Blackberry non-stop. My husband even commented about that. I could look at Anni and see that she was not happy at that point. I could tell by looking at her that they had argued,” Mashru said. 

Once in South Africa, she and Anni kept in contact via text messages between November 10 and 11. Riley referred to the list of text messages in court. In the first message, Anni asked her cousin what she should do because a day had passed and she still felt the same. 

“He is a really good guy but I really don’t feel happy with him at all,” the text message stated. Mashru replied that it was a difficult situation and they had to think of their options. “What I meant by that [text message] was before going on honeymoon, Anni didn’t want to go anywhere with Shrien at all. She was thinking of getting a divorce,” Mashru said. 

“My lady, my intention were that if she felt that she couldn’t be with him, then when she comes back, then we could think of options to leave him.” The next day, Mashru got a message from her saying that things were a lot better.

Anni killed because ‘she screamed’
Dewani believed his wife Anni was killed in the hijacking because she screamed, her first cousin told the court. Mashru told Riley that Dewani called her hours after the hijacking on November 13 2010, to explain what had happened on their honeymoon. 

Moments before, Anni’s sister Ami had phoned to tell her that her cousin was shot dead. “He told me that Anni wanted to see the townships and that he was tired and wanted to go home… Anni kept on saying to him ‘don’t be so boring, don’t be so boring. ‘Let’s go see the townships’. So they went, my lady,” Mashru said.

Dewani told her that two people banged on their shuttle taxi’s windscreen and entered the vehicle. He said Anni screamed repeatedly for the men to let them go because they were on honeymoon and he told her to keep quiet. Dewani apparently explained to Mashru that his wife took off her wedding ring, hid it between the seats, and gave him another ring to give to the men. 

The men apparently got annoyed, said the ring was not worth anything and put a gun to his ear. He was then pushed out the back seat window. Dewani apparently told her his theory about the killing.

“Firstly, he said ‘do not ever repeat this to anyone else’. The reason for why Anni was shot was because she was screaming. Had she not been screaming, she would not have been killed,” Mashru said.

The men had apparently explained to him before she screamed that they would drop Anni further off down the road.

Shrien ‘cold and controlling’
Riley asked if she had contact with Dewani when he returned from South Africa. Mashru confirmed she stayed in Dewani’s Bristol home. She said she felt very uncomfortable there and that Shrien Dewani acted very cold and controlling. He did not act the way she expected someone would act while grieving for their wife. 

She heard him say to his father that his shoulders were very stiff and he needed to get a massage. He also said his suits were too big for him and he needed to go to the tailors. Mashru found it strange that he would care about his appearance so much.

He ate a lot of food in that time while she could barely find enough energy to eat because she was grieving. 

What she found most peculiar was that he had Anni’s funeral planned on a spreadsheet on his laptop. “He knew everything. What songs to play, what people were going to stand where, who was going to greet, who was going to be with the car with the body. I could not focus on that. I thought it was strange,” she said. 

She wanted to leave the house in the middle of the night but was told the gates were closed so she left on the earliest train the following morning. The funeral took place on November 20 and 21. 

The day before the funeral, Mashru said she wanted to do Anni’s make-up one last time and she went to the funeral parlour with family members to dress her up. She said she couldn’t see the love in Shrien’s eyes as he gazed at her body. Anni’s body was swollen and he apparently tried to squeeze bangles onto her wrist. “I told him ‘stop, you are hurting her’.

“I can still hear, to this day, the noise when he dropped her arm.” When he put red powder onto her scalp, as he had done during their wedding, Mashru said it did not seem as though he was feeling anything and he did it quickly before leaving the room.

Recorded meeting with Shrien
Mashru recorded a meeting with Shrien in 2010 because she was suspicious of his role in her death and wanted answers, she told the court.

Mashru told Riley that she and Anni’s parents met Shrien and his brother in London a few days after the funeral in November 2010 to clear the air between the families. 

She borrowed a dictaphone and placed it in her jacket to secretly record the conversation for her own record. She felt that the things he had told her about his and his wife’s hijacking in Cape Town did not add up.

He also did not come across as someone who was grieving her loss and his behaviour made her suspicious.

During the meeting, Shrien told them that Anni had fought for her handbag, which they found strange because they knew she would have handed it over. He said she had his cellphone in the handbag and never mentioned money in the bag. Mashru decided to go to the police a week after the meeting because she knew he already had one broken engagement, which was taboo in the Hindu culture. 

“Also, if Shrien would get a divorce with Anni a week after the marriage, that would look bad for any Hindu family in society, especially the Dewanis because I knew the Dewani name meant a lot to them. That would be considered shameful to the Dewani name,” she said. 

She handed over text messages and e-mails between herself and Anni, as well as her cellphones, one of which Anni used, and her laptop. She also made a statement in January 2011. Mashru told the court that she and Anni had shared the same Hotmail and Facebook passwords. She could not access Anni’s accounts because she was told Shrien’s brother or sister had changed the passwords. 

Riley asked whether Anni ever took any medication. Mashru replied that Anni got acne before her wedding and took a double dose of very strong prescription medicine to get rid of it. She knew Anni had to use double contraception for at least a month after taking the medication because it was so strong.

Anni wanted out
Mashru was adamant that she and Anni were like sisters and that Anni often confided in her about the rocky relationship. Francois van Zyl, for Shrien Dewani, seemed to offer a different version during cross-examination and said that while the couple fought, they loved each other dearly. 

He asked Mashru whether the marriage was arranged or whether they got engaged because they loved each other. She responded that Anni had her doubts about the marriage and together they composed an e-mail to Shrien in which she explained her doubts. The couple also had conversations on the phone, in which he promised to be less controlling. Mashru said it was not an arranged marriage and they went ahead with their engagement after that contact because she thought he would change his ways. 

Van Zyl asked whether Anni loved Shrien. “Yes, she did, in the beginning. The way he was in the beginning, she did love him,” she replied. Mashru said the couple had their issues leading up to their wedding in October 2010 but that she still loved him. However, she said they had a lot of problems. 

“That is why after the wedding, when they came back from India, Anni and I were talking about a divorce because she felt like she could not live with Shrien,” Mashru said. She apparently did not want to go to South Africa with Shrien, and Mashru convinced her to go, promising her she would transfer money to her Swedish bank account if she needed a way out. 

Mashru said that even after they had married in India, Anni wanted to spend her time with her and not her husband. Van Zyl said his client would testify that both families had to pack 29 suitcases, weighing 225kg, of goods from the wedding and that Anni assisted her husband and relatives. 

Her cousin replied that she told Anni to spend time with Shrien and his family because she was a Dewani but that she had not been keen. The two went for massages and spent time at the pool, catching up on their lives. Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso asked her why she was not keen. 

“Anni told me that they didn’t get on very well and she told me this while we were at the pool. She went to have lunch with him and then she came back to the pool and said ‘it felt very stiff between us’.” – Sapa

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