Suspicious cousin secretly recorded Dewani meeting

2014-10-20 18:50
Shrien Dewani (File, AFP)

Shrien Dewani (File, AFP)

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Cape Town - Anni Dewani's cousin testified in the Western Cape High Court on Monday that she was suspicious of murder-accused Shrien Dewani, and that his behaviour was not what one would expect of someone who was grieving.

Sneha Mashru went as far as recording a family meeting and going to the police with her concerns. She added that Dewani wanted a massage and to have clothes tailored, and also ate a lot shortly after returning to the UK following the murder.

Mashru also found it odd that Dewani had planned Anni's entire funeral on a spreadsheet, questioning how he could be so organised in a time of grief.

Dewani is on trial for the murder of Anni, who was shot dead in an apparent hijacking in Gugulethu in November 2010. He has denied all charges against him.

Mashru and Anni were first cousins but "were more like sisters" and confided in each other, she told the court. There was a year's age difference between them, and she "knew everything about Anni", she said. This included discussions about divorce only days into the marriage.

Divorce

Mashru testified that Anni had misgivings about Dewani from early in their relationship. Mashru met Dewani on the couple's third date and he seemed like "a nice guy", she said. Anni shared her concerns about Dewani and an e-mail in which she voiced these concerns to Dewani. His reply and promise to amend his ways appeared to allay her fears and she proceeded with the engagement, Mashru said.

After the wedding in India, Anni spent most of her time with her cousin instead of her husband, and confided in her that she did not want to go on honeymoon with him. "She didn't want to go anywhere with Shrien," Mashru explained.

Anni was contemplating divorce and told Mashru she couldn't live with Dewani. However, Mashru said she encouraged Anni to go on honeymoon and they could decide what to do when she returned. She alluded to the fact that a divorce would look bad for the Dewani family as their name meant a lot to them in Hindu society.

Mashru also conceded to defence advocate Francois van Zyl that Anni was in love with Dewani at the time of the wedding, despite their differences. However, she said she would have known if Anni was trying to get pregnant. This emerged as Van Zyl introduced notes from a doctor's consultation with Anni before the honeymoon in which it states she wanted to fall pregnant.

Mashru and Anni remained in SMS contact during her honeymoon in South Africa. Initial text messages indicated Anni was not happy with Dewani, but later said the situation had improved.

Mashru spoke clearly in English, despite it being her third language. A Swedish interpreter was on hand to assist her, and she only conferred with him occasionally. She remained composed for most of her testimony, but occasionally removed her glasses to wipe away tears. The Hindocha family looked down silently as she recounted receiving a phone call to say Anni had been shot.

Shot because she screamed

Mashru recalled speaking to Dewani and asking what happened. He apparently told her Anni had wanted to see the townships, which surprised her as they'd just been in India, and Anni had previously visited Nigeria and so had seen townships before.

Mashru also testified that Dewani had told her in confidence that he believed Anni was shot because she screamed during the hijacking. Dewani apparently said the hijackers had told her to keep quiet, but she kept screaming. He believed they would have let her out of the vehicle further down the road. He asked Mashru not to repeat this theory to anybody else.

She also testified that she found Dewani's behaviour strange after the murder, and not what she'd have expected of someone who was grieving.

Mashru recounted feeling uncomfortable in Dewani's Bristol house, and that he was cold and controlling. "He was acting normal, I didn't see what I or my uncle felt in him," she said.

Dewani also "didn't treat Anni's body with love" while they were applying make-up before her funeral. He dropped her arm while trying to apply a bangle, and appeared to do things without any feeling for her, Mashru testified.

Suspicions

Dewani's behaviour gave rise to her suspicions, and she later secretly used a dictaphone to record a meeting between the families, which was called to "clear the air" following reports of differences. Anni's father, Vinod Hindocha, was also suspicious of Dewani, she added.

"Things Shrien told me didn't make sense, he didn't come across as a grieving husband, things he said on the phone sounded odd," Mashru told the court.

She also explained that she and Anni had shared the same passwords for their Facebook and Hotmail accounts, and she had given these to Dewani's siblings after they asked for them following the murder. They were changed and she couldn't access the accounts.

Earlier, British journalist Nick Parker testified about interviewing Dewani for The Sun newspaper after Anni's murder in 2010. He said Dewani was emotional and cried during the interview. He also detailed his attempts to contact taxi driver Zola Tongo during a visit to Cape Town. He raised laughter in the court when he said he only stayed at the Cape Grace hotel for one night as it was "very expensive".

Mashru will return to the witness stand on Tuesday.

Read more on:    anni hindocha  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  dewani trial

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