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Special investigation: The vital questions that honeymoon murder suspect Shrien Dewani still won't answer
Last October, two proud Hindu families came together at a 'lavish, three-day Bollywood-style wedding banquet that was supposed to seal their unbreakable union.
Yet today the Dewanis and the Hindochas are at war ' bitterly torn apart by the bride's 'brutal honeymoon murder, and the many 'unanswered questions that surround it.
Relatives of the wealthy, Bristol-based groom, Shrien Dewani, are convinced he is telling the truth in claiming he had nothing to do with the killing of his beautiful new wife, Anni. 'According to 30-year-old Mr Dewani, the story, though grim, is relatively straightforward.
Keen to escape the rarefied ambience of their waterfront hotel and experience the 'real' South Africa, he and Anni asked their taxi driver to take them to Gugulethu, a vast shantytown in Cape Town's suburbs.
There, their VW Sharan people carrier was hijacked by two gunmen who robbed and dumped Mr Dewani, then shot dead his 28-year-old bride.
However, Anni's family in Sweden are not 'convinced and side firmly with the South 'African authorities, who wish to try him for plotting her murder.
The extradition application resumes in the High Court in London on Thursday. In many ways, the case disturbingly echoes that of Madeleine McCann ' which I have studied at length and written about on many occasions. And visiting South Africa this week on the trail of the honeymoon murderer, the parallels seemed clear.
A mysterious crime is committed overseas, and ' eager to protect its reputation ' the host country promptly accuses the apparent victim, a British tourist, of being behind it.
There follows a fiercely patriotic international row which is seized upon by internet conspiracy theorists, whose lurid speculation further 'muddies the truth.
And, almost inevitably in this spin-obsessed age, a PR battle begins. The McCanns employed former BBC man Clarence Mitchell to do their bidding; the Dewanis have plumped for the altogether racier Max Clifford.
The Hindocha family are appalled by his involvement, and the fact that he was retained even before Mr Dewani was formally accused has ratcheted up their suspicions.
'We aren't in need of any PR guy,' Anni's uncle, Ashok, told me this week. 'We just speak our minds because we just feel as though Anni is being left out here, and it's so painful.'
At first, he says, his family could not believe that their son-in-law
might be implicated.
Ashok and Anni's father, Vinod, were present in court when Tongo made the submission, which earned him a seven-year reduction in his original 25-year prison sentence.
'Fortunately, we had been briefed on what he was going to say, otherwise I think my brother would have dropped down with heart failure,' Ashok says
Ashok has since compiled a dossier on the case, consulting prosecuting lawyers and senior detectives. 'The prosecutor assures us everything the driver told the court has been verified by witnesses and technical evidence,' he says.
'It is not us who are accusing 'Shrien, it is the courts, and we haven't yet heard his side of the story. The only person who has is Max Clifford. We think it would be better if it was told to a judge.'
Mr Dewani has claimed he was powerless to defend his new wife because the gunmen bundled him out of the taxi van's rear window. But Ashok believes him guilty of cowardice, at the very least.
'I wouldn't have left my dog to die like that,' he stormed in an 'uncharacteristically ill-measured outburst last week.
The Hindochas are also angry at the Dewanis for announcing that a fund, set up in Anni's name, will help build a new school in India. They should decide how the money is spent, they insist.
For their part, the Dewani family are very publicly expressing fears about the reliability of the South African justice system.
Given the xenophobic nature of the case, they also claim Shrien will not receive a fair trial.
Meanwhile, last week, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Barkhuizen ' renowned as South Africa's most ruthlessly efficient detective ' flew to London. He will ask British police to help him build a 'watertight case'.
His arrival will hardly brighten Mr Dewani's mood. A family source this week said Shrien, the financial brains behind his family's multi-million-pound residential care-home business, was a broken man. He is said to be on a 24-hour 'suicide watch.
Last autumn he was excitedly 'preparing to set up home with Anni in a newly refurbished wing of his family's vast, white-painted 'mansion in an affluent Bristol suburb. Now he is obliged to remain there, complete with electronic tag, as a condition of his ?250,000 bail.
'Shrien had his entire future mapped out,' said the source. 'They were going to move in with his 'parents, granny, and his older brother, Preyen and his wife, in accordance with his cultural traditions.
'Anni was looking forward to 'settling in England and working in the charitable sector. They hoped to start a family.' The notion that Mr Dewani would wish to sabotage his glittering future just didn't make sense, he added.
It seems a plausible argument, and though the South Africans maintain they have ample evidence to secure a conviction, privately they concede that they can find no motive.
Thus far there are only sordid rumours about his private life.
One red-top newspaper even reported the claims of a hulking, shaven-headed gay prostitute 'styling himself 'the German Master', who said Mr Dewani paid him ?1,100 for three sex sessions last year, when he was courting Anni.
His family scoff at such allegations and are threatening libel action. However, Ashok Hindocha refuses to dismiss them out of hand.
'We are not looking for a motive because that would assume that Shrien is guilty, and we don't know that,' he says cautiously.
But he adds: 'If some of these reports are true, then that could be the motive. I have never met one openly gay Indian person. In my country it is still very much taboo.'
Somewhere amid this unseemly verbal jousting lies the truth behind Anni's murder, but as I discovered in Cape Town this week, uncovering it is no easy matter.
The couple first met in April, 2009. In a modern version of the 'traditional Indian arranged 'marriage, they began by exchanging electronic messages at the 'suggestion of mutual friends and were introduced at a Starbucks, when Anni visited London.
Just three months earlier, Mr Dewani's engagement to Rani Kansagara, the daughter of a wealthy British-Asian tycoon, had ended. It is not clear why, but it lasted just a few weeks and she is said to have broken it off.
Anni's family felt satisfied, 'however, that the handsome young company director ' a former head boy at Bristol Grammar School and qualified chartered accountant ' was worthy of her.
The Dewanis were equally pleased at the thought of welcoming the bubbly, Swedish-Asian beauty ' an engineer with the Eriksson mobile phone company ' into their family.
'They were the perfect match,' says the family source.
Perhaps so, but their relationship did not run smoothly. They split up for a month before becoming engaged, in June last year.
Though they sang messages of love to one another at the October 'marriage ceremony, their troubles evidently returned soon afterwards. On November 7 ' just six days before she died ' Anni sent a text message to a friend saying: 'Crying has become my new hobby.'
According to the Dewani source, it was a tiff caused by the stress of their 'pantomime production' 'wedding. Yet several people in South Africa were taken aback by their perceived lack of closeness.
'I never once saw them hug or kiss, or even hold hands,' I was told by a member of staff who served them at the Cape Grace Hotel, hours before Anni was murdered. She told me they were on honeymoon, but you'd never have guessed.'
There were similar stories at the Chitwa Chitwa game lodge, where they spent three days before 'arriving at Cape Town.
The timing of their holiday 'booking is curious, too. For I have discovered that Mr Dewani fixed up their first class BA flights and accommodation just three days before their departure.
Why, when they spent so many weeks planning the wedding, did he risk waiting until the very last minute to secure the most 'important trip of his life'
As a habitual late-booker, was he simply behaving true to type ' as the family insider claims'
His behaviour on arriving at Cape Town airport begs more questions. Why didn't he arrange to be picked up by the hotel's limo-service (too pricey at '60, says his defender); and why risk using a freelance 'tout? driver when there are any number of reputable taxi kiosks in the terminal?
Then again, the bridegroom is said to have asked Tongo ? an apparent stranger ? to arrange the hit after he dropped them at the hotel. They met barely half an hour earlier, so was that really likely?
Retracing the couple?s last journey, events become still more bizarre. Mr Dewani has intimated that he wanted to dine with his wife at a township ?barbecue restaurant commended by Jamie Oliver.
Supposing this is true, though, why go at 8pm, when it closes at 7.30? Why not have lunch there rather than risk driving through Gugulethu at nightfall, when it becomes a virtual no-go area for visitors?
Visiting the spot where they were hijacked raises more doubts. I had ?imagined it to be a major crossroads, perhaps with traffic lights obliging the taxi to slow down or stop.
But they were apparently held up while travelling along a main road through the township. Unless it was a set up, as Tongo insists, why would this experienced driver have pulled over for two strangers, against all the accepted advice?
Predictably, we might think, ?Tongo?s mother, Liziwe, is ?convinced her son ? who has five children, all by different women, and was badly in debt ? told the truth in court.
?Zola had never been in trouble. Why did this English man come to our country and tempt him?? she asked me bitterly, speaking for the first time this week. ?He has ruined our lives.?
We move on to the behaviour of the gunmen, two ghetto-raised miscreants now awaiting trial.
They may have been woefully inept, but why ever did they free first
Tongo (who was conveniently dropped off near a police barracks) and then
Mr Dewani, knowing they could identify them?
Here, hijacking is so commonplace as to be almost banal, and the culprits invariably follow a blueprint.
Where a couple is captured, both man and wife are badly beaten and robbed, and the woman is raped, usually in front of her husband.
Fortunate victims are then left at the roadside; the unlucky ones are killed. Their car is either ?stolen or set ablaze to destroy the evidence.
In this case, it was all so different.
Though lawyers for the Hindocha and Dewani families are expected to argue fiercely in court over whether Anni was molested, the paramedic who found her lying on the back seat of the van is adamant that she had not been sexually assaulted.
She was still wearing her skirt and blouse, and though they were some small wounds on her upper back ? perhaps caused by a knife ? she had apparently been ?dispatched with a single bullet to the her neck.
?She looked like someone who had maybe passed out through drink or who had been sedated,? he says. ?There was no evidence of a struggle.?
Ashok Hindocha says he has had this confirmed by one of the first police officers on the scene. ?I had to know whether Anni had been sexually attacked, so I looked into his eyes and asked him. He said ?No?.?
The VW van ? though worth far more to the hijackers than the items they stole ? was abandoned in a quiet residential street, with fingerprints all over it. That is how one of the gunmen was traced.
Finally, what of Mr Dewani? If he was pushed out of the taxi?s back window it would have been quite some squeeze, as Ashok discovered when he tested the claim using a identical vehicle.
It would have been a hard landing, too, for the township road were he says he was dumped is potholed and fringed by litter-strewn, sand-and-scrub wasteland. But according to the Good Samaritan who helped Mr Dewani, when he called at his house late at night, sniffling and pleading for help, the British tourist?s crisp white shirt and black suit were not even dirty.
More and more curious; and it seems the bridegroom is unable to shed more light on matters.
?It?s very difficult and painful for Shrien discuss any of this,? says the Dewani source. ?I don?t know if it?s true to say the brain blanks things out ? but things happened so quickly.
?We are talking about an incident which happened at night with a gun pointing at you.?
Whatever the reason for his apparent amnesia, the South African
authorities may decide it is a mite too convenient, and press him
considerably harder should their extradition application succeed.
For their one great wish is to ?scatter Anni?s ashes across water, in accordance with Hindi tradition, but they are reluctant to lay her to rest before the case is solved.
So her remains are still in a ?London funeral parlour. Until the case is resolved, there will be no last rites for the tragic Bollywood bride ? and no end to the bitter war between two proud Hindu families.
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