Shrien Dewani’s legal team requested that he be given a day off from his trial in the high court in Cape Town on Thursday, to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of his wife Anni Hindocha.
The request was unusual, as Dewani stands accused of masterminding his wife’s murder in a staged hijacking in Gugulethu township.
But this is no ordinary case, as the British citizen has denied all charges against him, claiming he is also a victim of the rampant crime in South Africa.
Hindocha’s body was found in the back of an abandoned taxi in an impoverished area of Khayelitsha township on November 13 2010, with a single gunshot wound to her neck.
Voice from the grave
In a week that marks the haunting murder of the beautiful 28-year-old Swedish engineer, her voice came through clearly when the court heard an email she wrote to her husband eight days before her murder.
Newlywed Anni Hindocha told Dewani she was considering leaving him.
“I left my home, family and everything to be with you and three days later you say that if you knew marriages were like this you wouldn’t have got married. Seriously, do you want me to leave you? … It is very mean of you to tell me things that you told me just after marriage, when you should have told me this before!”
Hindocha said she did not want an insecure man whose feelings did not come naturally.
“Never expected things like that from you, but now I want you to tell me exactly how u 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 …” she wrote.
Two previously unseen emails that Hindocha sent to her husband were placed on the record in court on Tuesday by state witness and Hawks investigator on the case Captain Paul Hendrickse.
Hendrickse disclosed another email he had retrieved that appears to explain what Dewani said that had upset her.
“You did say if u saw in chrystal ball how this marriage would been like, then you wouldn’t got married,” Hindocha wrote.
While she wrote she would “let this go”, if there was anything she should know about, he should tell her, she implored.
“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 each other.”
Her emails were sent with the subject “Things to get ready”, as the couple were preparing to head to South Africa for their honeymoon.
Defence advocate Francois van Zyl SC pointed out that Dewani’s response to his wife’s email had already been admitted in court.
In his email, Dewani listed numerical points he wanted to make about their relationship issues.
“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 …” Dewani wrote.
“3. I love you. You know that. Surely this is the most important thing. The rest will just come.”
Dewani signed off his email to his new wife “regards Shrien”.
Three South Africans, taxi driver Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni have already been given lengthy jail sentences for taking part in the murder. Dewani says he was framed in his wife’s murder by Tongo, Qwabe and middleman Monde Mbolombo, who was given immunity from prosecution that could still be reviewed.
Only Xolile Mngeni pleaded not guilty to the charges. He died from a brain tumour last month while serving his life term in prison.
Following his wife’s murder, Dewani was allowed to return to Britain as he was not yet a suspect in her murder. The lengthy extradition proceedings took three years as it was ruled in a London court that he was suffering from debilitating depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidal tendencies at the time.
While Dewani fights for his freedom surrounded by his supportive family, the state’s case is being countered by a strong defence team.
When Hendrickse gave his evidence this week, Judge Jeanette Traverso castigated him regularly for the answers he provided to the questions from Van Zyl, but he held his ground.
Motive for murder
Traverso had already ruled as inadmissable evidence from Leopold Leisser, aka the German Master, who claimed he had sex sessions with Dewani as his client, as well as emails from a senior British parliamentary figure who claimed he had an affair with Dewani.
The state had hoped to point this evidence to a motive for the murder, as they believed Dewani was leading a double life.
Dewani had denied consistently that he had sex sessions with Leisser, but told the court at the outset of his trial in Cape Town that he was bisexual.
In court this week, Hendrickse pointed to contradictions in Dewani’s accounts to the police. Dewani had said that he pleaded for his bride’s life in return for the wedding rings, which he handed to the men who ambushed Tongo’s taxi.
Yet Hendrickse said Dewani had phoned him the following morning to tell him that the police officers should look for his wife’s engagement ring in the stitching in the taxi’s car seat.
Hendrickse said in court that Dewani had not revealed to the police that he had put R10 000 in his wife’s bag before the couple left on the fatal taxi ride. Neither had he revealed to the police that it was a payment for a helicopter ride he now claims he asked Tongo to arrange.
The first time Hendrickse learnt from Dewani of a proposed helicopter ride was at the start of the court case, he said, and the experienced policeman described this as a “newly fabricated” story.
The trial will close on Thursday, the anniversary of Hindocha’s death, and resume on Friday.
Certain to be present are the many members of the Hindocha family who have relocated to Cape Town for the duration of the trial and wear a picture of the murdered young woman on their lapels. The two families, once joined by marriage, no longer appear to communicate with each other.