Dewani ‘perfectionist, calculated and controlling’- defence

Anni Dewani’s cousin did not tell the British police all the details of a phone conversation she had about the fatal hijacking in Cape Town in 2010, the high court in the Western Cape heard on Tuesday.

Francois van Zyl cross-examined the cousin, Sneha Mashru, on what his client Shrien Dewani had told her over the phone just hours after Anni was killed in the hijacking. Dewani has pleaded not guilty to masterminding her death in an apparent sham hijacking on November 13 2010.

Mashru previously testified that police recorded their interview with her on November 30 2010 after the conversation with Dewani raised her suspicions about his possible involvement in the killing and she decided to take action.

In her evidence-in-chief, she said Dewani had told her on the phone that Anni wanted to see the townships and that he was tired and wanted to go home. He also told her that when they were hijacked, she hid her wedding ring and gave another ring to the men but they got annoyed because they said it was not worth anything.

Looking at the transcript of Mashru’s first interview with the police, Van Zyl asked why none of this information was there.

Mashru said her main focus in the interview was the text messages between herself and Anni because it “was something concrete to give to the police”. 

Deputy Judge Jeanette Traverso asked what she meant by concrete. “I thought that you could see [in the messages] that the relationship was not good. I am not saying it was not good, you could actually see it,” Mashru replied.

She said she mentioned the part about the townships when she made her official statement in January 2011.

Dewani a ‘perfectionist’
Dewani was depicted in court as a perfectionist who focused on making everything just right even after his wife Anni’s death in 2010.

“He is accused, rightly so, of being a perfectionist, calculated and controlling. That is his character,” van Zyl told Mashru.

He was trying to cast doubt on the testimony she gave on Monday, in which she described how strange it had been that British businessman Dewani seemed so focused in planning Anni’s funeral instead of being sad and grieving.

She stayed at Dewani’s Bristol home after he returned from South Africa, on November 17 2010, and said she felt very uncomfortable there and that he acted in a very cold and controlling way.

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 the tailors. He also ate a lot of food while she could barely find her appetite.

Van Zyl offered explanations for this behaviour and suggested that her perceptions were perhaps incorrect. He said Dewani’s shoulder was sore because he had injured it while exiting the car during the hijacking.

Regarding the suits, he was a perfectionist and wanted to make sure that his suits fitted him properly because he had suddenly lost weight and wanted to look decent at the funeral.

“The accused will say that he was not the only one involved [in the planning]. Other people actually did most of the planning and submitted to him a Word document, which he edited,” the lawyer said.

‘I make the decisions’
Mashru replied that she saw Dewani checking everything and making sure it was the way he wanted it to be. She asked him at the time why he did not ask Anni’s father Vinod to help with the arrangements. “He got angry and said I am the husband and I make the decisions.”

Van Zyl handed up a string of emails between Dewani’s family and an events planner who was tasked with “celebrating Anni’s life”. The lawyer said this showed that other people were largely involved in the planning of the large funeral, which was held over three days and attended by over 1 500 people.

“I never denied the fact that other people were involved in the planning. I said it was strange that Shrien could be so focused,” Mashru replied.

The cousin had also testified about how cold and loveless Dewani seemed when they were preparing Anni’s corpse for burial, saying he shoved bangles onto her swollen wrists with force and she told him to stop.

Van Zyl said the body was swollen and Dewani struggled to put the bangles on. He also straightened her sari and a necklace so that it looked right.

Mashru said she expected him to be more sad and could not see the love he had for her in that moment. Changing tack, the lawyer said it was incorrect for her to testify that the Dewani family only cared about their reputation and that Shrien’s previous broken engagement was taboo.

“The accused will tell the court that his family was absolutely supportive of him at the time. Their concern was not the reputation of the family. Their concern was that their children should be happy,” he said.

Van Zyl added that there had been a number of previous broken engagements and divorces in the family and that they accepted these things happened.

Mashru wanted to relay what Anni had told her about this but could not because it was hearsay evidence. She said she could not then comment.

Planning for a baby
According to van Zyl, Anni went to a doctor before her honeymoon in November 2010 because she was planning to fall pregnant.

Van Zyl said he had medical notes, which showed she visited the doctor on November 4 2010 and informed him she was trying to conceive. She also told him she was not on contraceptives and the doctor advised her to take tablets for improving her fertility, and said this made her testimony about a supposedly rocky relationship strange.

“I have to put it to you that what she told the doctor, that she wanted to become pregnant, that she wanted to get medication, flies in the face of what you told me about divorce.”

Mashru did not seem to waiver from her evidence-in-chief and repeated that when Anni came back from her wedding in India, she spoke to her about not wanting go on honeymoon.

Mashru said Anni would have told her about wanting to get pregnant and had been on a double dose of prescription medicine to clear her skin. She was warned to use double contraception for at least a month after taking the tablets because there could be genetic defects or a miscarriage if she fell pregnant.

Van Zyl said Anni had sent a text message to her mother-in-law telling her she was having a great time on honeymoon.

He asked whether she knew if his client was aware of the conversations she and her cousin had had about divorce.

Anni’s issues with Dewani
Mashru said while she applied make-up to Anni for her henna party, Anni told her she and Dewani had decided to act for the rest of the wedding. “I know for a fact that Shrien and Anni’s sex life was not good because Shrien was having problems having an erection,” Mashru said.

Van Zyl asked whether her acne tablets may have affected her mood.

She replied that Anni seemed the same and that she was only tearful because she was having issues with Dewani.

Dewani would say that his wife stopped taking the tablets in August 2010.

Mashru replied that Anni told her during a 50th birthday party on August 14 that she was taking the tablets.

The court ruled that the doctor’s notes were of a personal nature and would not be made available to the media.

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 that he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000. Her slumped body was found in the abandoned shuttle taxi in Khayelitsha the following day. – Sapa

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Jenna Etheridge
Jenna Etheridge
Journalist, writer and editor

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