Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Honeymoon Murder of Anni Dewani

Public Outcry


Although he has been arrested for no crime, Shrien Dewani is now reviled; he has become the object of vigorous accusations. Assuming the worst, Britain was scandalized that the heir to a healthcare fortune could be so callous, that he could instigate such brutality. Moreover, Dewani seemed to lack a motive. Shrien Dewani controlled what wealth the couple possessed; he suffered no financial difficulty, and his marriage was so fresh that some misguided marital desperation couldn't have been the motive behind his allegedly murderous designs.

Anni Dewani
Anni Dewani
South Africans became enraged by what appeared to be Dewani's cynical calculus: who would question the motive for a robbery and killing in a South African township? After all, the world's gut reaction to a killing in Gugulethu would be just another killing in Gugulethu, only this time a wealthy and perhaps naive British newlywed. What did she expect going into the lawless townships?

Dewani anticipated this reaction and, according to The Telegraph, his representatives have repeatedly claimed that South African authorities are implicating him in the murder in order to protect their country's tourism industry.

Most damming, at least from the point of view of the public, are the inconsistencies in Shrien Dewani's story as well as his refusal to return to Cape Town at the South African authorities' request.

To begin with, Dewani has proven inconsistent in the most fundamental details of his wife's abduction. After obtaining the services of Max Clifford, a master of public relations, Dewani released a statement claiming that he and he wife had been held in the car for 40 minutes, not 20, before he was ejected. More importantly, he claimed that Tongo, and not Anni, suggested the trip to Gugulethu.

More salaciously, The Telegraph reported that Leopold Leisser, a "German-born, gay escort" claimed to have had sex with Shrien Dewani three times in Birmingham and London. The Sun also reported "a burly male escort who dresses in a military-style leather uniform told Scotland Yard that Dewani had paid more than £1,100 for sex on three occasions between September last year and April." Both claims were ultimately shown to be false when Dewani conclusively proved that he was not in either of the two cities in question on the dates provided by the prostitute, but it was clear that public sentiment had shifted away from Dewani.

South African officials have a series of closed-circuit TV films purportedly showing Shrien Dewani withdrawing cash and meeting, clandestinely, with Zola Tongo. The last, and most damming, of the meetings occurred at Dewani's hotel several days after the murder. Closed-circuit TV shows Dewani giving Tongo a large package containing cash. South African authorities have questioned Dewani, from afar, and he claims that he was only paying Tongo for services rendered as a driver.

Dewani's flat refusal to return to South African to assist in the investigation has also cast suspicion on him in South African eyes. Since Tongo's testimony was entered into the record, the government of South Africa has been attempting to extradite Dewani. He refuses to return. After initially surrendering to Bristol police, Shrien became uncooperative with the investigation, refusing to submit to extradition. The official defense to this action, or lack of action, is that Dewani fears reprisal from a South African kangaroo court, one intent on making a scapegoat of Dewani in order to salvage Cape Town tourism.

Shrien Dewani is currently out on the equivalent of nearly $400,000 bail, and he has surrendered his passport. As recently as January 2011, Anni's family has pleaded with him to assist the investigation. He refuses while maintaining his innocence. Most recently, on January 20, 2011 Shrien Dewani failed to attend an extradition hearing in England; his lawyers claimed that he was suffering from "acute stress disorder and a depressive adjustment disorder." At other times, Shrien Dewani seems to contemplate returning to South Africa, although he has a series of strict conditions which must be met if he is to return. According to the BBC, in order to consider allowing his extradition to proceed without a battle, Dewani is demanding the right to be free on bail until the conclusion of the case — until the final appeal.

Until then, the killing of the lovely Anni Dewani remains unsolved; confusion reigns; the pain persists; and the charges remain. According to the BBC, Dewani "is facing charges of conspiracy to murder, murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravated circumstances and obstruction of the administration of justice."

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