British businessman Shrien Dewani sought to provide explanations to disprove claims he killed his wife Anni in 2010, on the first day of his trial.
Dressed in a smart suit, he sat in the dock of court room two of the Western Cape High Court, surrounded by media eager to hear his version.
“I plead not guilty to all five counts,” he said in a loud and clear voice.
He 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.
A plea explanation was handed up to Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso and read out by his lawyer Francois van Zyl.
In it, Dewani describes how he and Anni were the victims of a traumatic hijacking on Saturday, November 13, 2010.
They had been driven through Gugulethu in Cape Town when a group of men stopped the shuttle bus, took their belongings, forced him out and drove off with Anni. She was found dead in the minibus the following morning.
Dewani explained in the document that because of the traumatic experience, he had 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.”
His plea explanation makes mention of his personal circumstances and the relationship he had with Anni.
He met Anni Hindocha on May 30, 2009 after a mutual friend gave him her contact details. He was instantly physically attracted to her on their first date, loved her bubbly personality and sensed there was mutual chemistry.
His plea explanation revealed he was bisexual and had 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,” the plea explanation reads.
“My sexual interactions with females were usually during the course of a relationship which consisted of other activities and emotional attachment.”
Dewani revealed he had hormone problems and was told in 2009 he may struggle to reproduce. He underwent testosterone replacement therapy, despite the side-effects, because he wanted his own family.
“I discussed my problem with Anni as I knew that she wanted children as well.”
Their relationship cooled and they went on separate holidays in December 2009/January 2010.
She ended their relationship in an e-mail on January 14, 2010 and moved from Stockholm, Sweden, to London two months later. Around this time, he was advised that his hormone levels had increased, improving his chances of good fertility.
“Anni and I were both excited and I felt invigorated.”
After a few more bumps in the road, the two announced their engagement in May 2010. They planned a wedding and it went ahead in India on October 29 that year.
Dewani explained that he chose to honeymoon with his wife in South Africa because the country’s initials matched their own.
When they arrived in Cape Town on November 11, 2010, he went to look for a taxi and was approached by driver Zola Tongo.
“He told us that he was an executive tour guide and that he had chauffeured a number of VIPs in the past… he was in effect trying to sell his services,” Dewani states in the plea document.
Tongo offered to help him arrange a surprise helicopter trip for Anni, for R15,000, and recommended a place to exchange his British pounds for rands.
Tongo said in a plea bargain that Dewani had offered him R15,000 to have Anni killed. He was jailed for 18 years in December 2010.
Accomplices Mziwamadoda Qwabe, and Xolile Mngeni — who shot Anni — were jailed for 25 years and life respectively in 2012.
Dewani explained that he saw Tongo after Anni’s body had been found and he appeared shocked by what had happened.
He spoke to him and Tongo 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 R1000.”
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.
The trial was postponed until Wednesday because of scheduling and availability issues.
Dewani would wear headphones during the trial after the court was advised he had problems with his hearing. SAPA