Dewani launches pre-emptive strike against State

2014-10-06 20:04
Shrien Dewani in court. (AP)

Shrien Dewani in court. (AP)

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Dewani trial - day 1 summary

2014-10-06 16:42

After four years and a lengthy extradition process, Shrien Dewani's trial got underway in the Western Cape High Court. He is accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife, Anni, while the two honeymooned in Cape Town in 2010. Here's everything you need to know about day one of the case.WATCH

Cape Town - The first day of honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani's trial in the Western Cape High Court on Monday was marked by jostling journalists, some gripping revelations, shocking footage of how his wife's body was found, and details of how she died.

Proceedings officially started shortly after 10:00, but Dewani himself had arrived about two hours earlier. A large media contingent in the court jostled for position in the queue as a limited number of photographers were permitted inside the court to take images of him in the dock, as no recording or photographs were allowed while court was in session - unlike the Oscar Pistorius trial in Pretoria.

In fact, in a South Africa still gripped by the live coverage of the Pistorius trial, the court proceedings had some marked similarities, but also marked differences. The media attention, with a large contingent of foreign journalists (mostly British and Swedish) was there, but without being able to follow proceedings live, the attention turned to social media, notably Twitter. The witness list will also not be made public - of course, in this trial, there are a number of witnesses to the actual murder, unlike the Pistorius case.

Pleads not guilty

The British businessman has been charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, conspiracy to commit the above crimes, and defeating the ends of justice. These charges relate to the death of his Swedish-born wife, Anni, in what he claimed was a botched hijacking in Cape Town in November 2010. Dewani pleaded not guilty to all charges, speaking in a strong and clear voice.

Dewani's defence lawyer Francois van Zyl proceeded to read out Dewani's lengthy plea explanation to the court. The statement appeared to pre-empt the State's case against him - that he was a gay man seeking a way out of his marriage - as he admitted to being bisexual and having sexual relations with men and women, as well as paying male prostitutes.

In the statement, Dewani also admitted to having hormone problems which would have made having children difficult, and that he had testosterone replacement therapy, despite the side-effects.

He explained how he had met Anni and detailed their courtship, wedding and honeymoon plans. He admitted they had argued and she had wanted to call off the wedding, but insisted they had resolved their differences - perhaps challenging the State's case against him once again.

Dewani's statement then explained the events leading up to the death of Anni in a car in Gugulethu, adding that the post-traumatic stress he has suffered since means his memory is sometimes unclear.

Footage of body

However, few in court will forget the footage which was later shown of a dead Anni Dewani on the back seat of the car. The police video first panned the street scene and then zoomed in on the vehicle, showing blood at the back door. This door is then opened and Anni's body is shown slumped on the seat, facing down, with her hair blowing slightly in the breeze. There were audible gasps in court and then stunned silence as the footage was shown.

Anni's parents, Vinod and Nilam Hindocha, were not present in court for the footage, but returned later as the first witness, pathologist Dr Janette Verster, detailed her findings at the crime scene and later the post-mortem she carried out on Anni's body. She found that Anni had died from close range bullet shots, particularly one to the neck.

Dewani himself was seen fidgeting at times, otherwise staring ahead as the exact details of his wife's wounds were revealed in court. Meanwhile, his family also appeared stony faced in court, while members of the Hindocha family, on the opposite side of the court, seemed close to tears.

Deputy Judge President Jeannette Traverso adjourned proceedings shortly after 15:00, with court set to resume on Wednesday.

ANCWL support

In another comparison to the Pistorius trial, members of the ANC Women's League, dressed in their trademark green, were in court to raise awareness of gender violence.

"We are coming to support the family of Anni," ANCWL member Nondumiso Mfaxa told News24. She and other members had observed proceedings from the public gallery.

"We can't say much yet as it's only been a day, but it went okay."

She added they were not getting paid, and were there in their capacity as ANCWL volunteers.

Public gallery

British tourist Elaine West attended proceedings to observe the differences between the English and South African legal systems, she told News24 outside the court. She happened to be in Cape Town on holiday and decided to attend as she had previously worked as a legal secretary and clerk and had thus spent a large amount of time in British courts.

Her first observation was the sound was bad. "We couldn't hear much in the public gallery - they say justice must be seen to be done but it must be heard too," she said.

She also found it strange that witnesses who have yet to be called (such as family members and police officials) could be present in court, as she feared this would influence the testimony they give.

West said she had no particular feelings about the case, and felt the coverage it had received in the UK media until now had been fair. "We will wait and see," she added.

Meanwhile, cleaner Shafik du Plessis, from Delft, was standing outside court waiting for Dewani to leave. He says he came after he finished work because he was interested in the case and has been following it closely.

"It's been going on a long time already, he keeps playing crazy. But they must finish the case now, so that's what I'm here to see."

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

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