Murdered bride’s family mulls suing Dewani
The family of a Swedish bride murdered on her honeymoon plans to sue her wealthy British husband Shrien Dewani, after his acquittal, saying she would never have married him if she knew he was bisexual.
Dewani walked free from the Cape Town high court Monday after a shock judgement saw him cleared him of hiring hitmen to murder 28-year-old Anni Dewani (nee Hindocha).
In a statement published Tuesday, Anni’s uncle Ashok Hindocha said Anni would never have married Dewani if she had known about “his secret sex life with male prostitutes”.
“Neither would we have, as a family, condoned a union with a man who indulged himself in such a sordid manner,” the statement said.
“We will now go through this case with our lawyers to confirm whether we can file a lawsuit against Shrien Dewani in the UK.”
Both families are of Indian origin and had sat across the courtroom from each other since the trial began in October. Many on both sides wept — with joy on the one hand and bitterness on the other — when Dewani was acquitted.
Prosecutors said Dewani hired hitmen to kill Anni in a staged hijacking in a Cape Town township during their honeymoon in November 2010 because he is gay and felt trapped into marriage by family pressures.
Dewani told the court in a written statement at the start of the trial that he is bisexual and admitted having sex with male prostitutes, but said he loved Anni.
But the court heard that Anni sent Dewani desperate emails just days after their lavish wedding ceremony in Mumbai questioning his “feelings” for her.
“I don’t want an insecure man or a man whose feelings doesn’t come naturally that you have to force yourself,” Anni wrote on November 5, 2010.
She was killed eight days later.
– ‘Fallen far’ –
Dewani left for Britain soon after the murder and fought extradition for three years before being returned to South Africa in April for trial.
But Judge Jeanette Traverso said the state’s evidence had “fallen far below” the level needed to secure a conviction.
She said testimony by two men jailed for Anni’s murder that Dewani had masterminded the plan was “improbable” and full of contradictions and lies.
The judge conceded there were “a number of unanswered questions” about the murder, but said it would be unjust to force Dewani to testify in his own defence simply in the hope that he would incriminate himself.
She had earlier rejected as irrelevant testimony from a major state witness, sado-masochism “master” and gay prostitute Leopold Leisser, who reportedly told British police that Dewani had said he was getting married to a “lovely girl” but needed “to find a way out of it”.
Anni’s family criticised the decision to acquit Dewani without forcing him to testify, saying they needed to hear what he had to say under oath about the night she died.
“Justice failed us,” her sister Ami Denborg told a scrum of international media outside the court.
“The knowledge of not ever knowing what happened to my dearest little sister on 13 November 2010; that is going to haunt me, my family, my brother, my parents, for the rest of our lives.”
Taxi driver Zola Tongo and one of the hijackers — both serving long jail terms for the murder — told the court that Dewani hired them for 15,000 rand ($1,300) to kill his new wife.
Dewani said in his statement that he had offered the money to the taxi driver to arrange a private helicopter tour of Cape Town as a surprise for his bride.
Because he was not called to testify, prosecutors never got the chance to cross-examine Dewani on why he was willing to pay an unknown taxi driver so much in cash to organise a trip that could have been handled by his top-class hotel.
Nor could they ask him why he was allowed out of the vehicle before the hijackers drove off with his bride and later killed her, execution style, with a single shot.