This is the story of a British NRI from an affluent family, who marries a beautiful, intelligent girl, both a qualified engineer and part time model. The union of Shrien Dewani and Anni (nee Hindocha) is celebrated by hundreds of well to do guests at a lavish ceremony in Mumbai. A fortnight later, during the Honeymoon, the Swedish-born bride is found dead late at night in wasteland in a Capetown ghetto, South Africa. Local and international media report how the couple were victims of a carjacking, one of the violent crimes that has plagued the Rainbow Nation since it emerged from the Apartheid era. Weeks later, a bombshell is dropped - the number one suspect in the case is the groom. It is further alleged that Dewani hired local hit men to commit the murder under the guise of a carjacking of a vehicle in which Dewani would be seated, together with his wife, at the time.
No, I am not making this stuff up, and it’s not the plot from a murder mystery novel - it’s a real life criminal investigation! And one that I have been following closely over the last few weeks.
Speculation on motive is rife. Initially it is suspected that money was the driver. Then the South African Police declare that they wish to interview their suspect regarding his sexual orientation following information that all was not well, physically, in his new, albeit short lived relationship.
For someone who has yet to officially enter a legal process, Mr Dewani appears to be facing a trial by media. One thing that may be fueling the suspicions of some of those following this story, is that Dewani is fighting an extradition application made by the South African authorities. The victim’s father, Vinod Hindocha, has urged his son-in-law to travel to South Africa if he truly wants to clear his name.
During this whole saga, I have wondered whether my fascination with the case is influenced by the fact it concerns people of Indian origin. On this occasion I think it has less to do with that. The story has captured the attention of the British, Swedish, Indian and South African communities at large from the point of view that “you just could not have made it up”. However, there is no question, I am always more interested in news where there is an Indian connection no matter how tenuous.
In my attempts to keep up with the Dewani case, I constantly scour the internet to find the latest breaking news. I am not surprised to find the level of interest from Indian news sites, interested as they are in any scandal involving those of Indian origin, whether they are citizens or not. As if being a named suspect in a murder case was not enough to contend with, this poor man from Bristol in the UK has suddenly come to the attention of a quarter of the world’s population by virtue of a historical link to India!
There are a number of other aspects of the case that have grabbed my attention, particularly in the way they have been reported. It’s no secret that us Indians have an international reputation for being a little miserly, but I have been bemused by some of the more trivial claims being made against the suspect, especially as they do not necessarily strengthen the case against him. Here are some of those allegations.
- Dewani paid only 15,000 South African Rand - just over £1400 - to have his wife killed. That too, was to be split between at least three men involved in the murder.
- Dewani exchanged some of this “fee” from Sterling to Rand at a gold shop. The driver accompanying him was unable to secure an introducer’s commission because Dewani had negotiated such a “good rate”.
- Dewani secured a refund from British Airways for the return leg of his wife’s flight, that she would never make, days after her murder.
So, not only is the man a callous murderer, he is cheap to boot - allegedly.
In a new development, a German gay escort has come forward to advise British Police that he engaged in three “kinky sex” sessions with Dewani in return for approximately £1100. Now, I am no expert on the subject of paid sex, kinky or otherwise, but from my Indian perspective, £350 a go does not seem to represent very good value for money. Maybe in a perverse (no pun intended) way this could support the case for the defence. On the strength of this new information, how could he possibly have only offered to pay £1400 to complete strangers to have his wife killed - ergo - he did not have his wife killed. The catch is that he would have to put his hands up to the kinky sex claims!
Anyway, I am sure this story is going to run and run. As the South African authorities lodge their extradition application, Dewani’s advisors have stepped up their efforts in the PR battle to restore their client’s reputation. In the meantime, I eagerly await the next developments. Surely this case cannot get any more bizarre...