Shrien Dewani pleads not guilty to wife’s murder as trial begins
British businessman Shrien Dewani has told a high court in Cape Town he had no involvement in the murder of his newly-wed wife Anni Dewani on their honeymoon in South Africa in 2010.
Standing in the dock, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and tie Mr Dewani told Judge Jeanette Traverso: “I plead not guilty to all five counts, my lady.”
Mr Dewani was formally charged on Monday with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and defeating the ends of justice.
The body of the 28-year-old Swedish engineer was found in an abandoned car with gunshot wounds to her head and neck. A forensic report presented to the court showed graphic images of the body lying on the back seat and hair blowing in the breeze from an open car door. It revealed extensive bruising to the victim’s arms and hands suggesting she had fought with her attacker.
As the long-awaited trial began, the 34-year-old accused from Bristol, told a shocked audience that he was bisexual and had led a double life in the run-up to the wedding and had interactions with male prostitutes.
In a witness statement Dewani said: “My sexual interactions with males were mostly physical experiences or email chats with people I met online or in clubs, including prostitutes. My sexual interactions with females were usually during the course of a relationship which consisted of other activities and emotional attachment.”
A German male sex worker Leopold Leisser is expected to give key evidence against Dewani, alleging the accused had paid him for sex several times in the months prior to the shooting. Mr Dewani is accused of conspiring with Cape Town residents Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni to kill his new wife.
According to his testimony their taxi driven by Tongo was hijacked by two armed gunmen in a township as they drove back to their hotel on 13th November 2010.
He told the court: “The next thing I remember was banging noises coming from the front and the right-hand side of the car. There was a lot of shouting in a language I did not understand. The next thing I recall is somebody next to me who told me to lie down. This person had a gun in his hand; I cannot recall which hand. I tried to open the door but it would not open. I recall the window opening. I recall 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. I said this to her in Gujarati.”
In April this year Shrien Dewani was extradited back to South Africa after Tongo told police he had been promised £850 to hire two criminals to stage the carjacking and kill Mrs Dewani.
Speaking to journalists outside the courtroom Anni’s father Vinod Hindocha, who had flown in from Sweden with other family members said: “Now that I’m here, all I ask for is the full story and justice. I am confident that South Africa will conduct a fair and open trial of Shrien Dewani.”
Tongo, Qwabe and Mngeni are currently serving jail terms in connection with the murder.