Dewani a perfectionist: lawyer


Murder-accused businessman Shrien Dewani is a perfectionist who focused on making everything just right even after his wife Anni's death in 2010, his lawyer told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

"He is accused, rightly so, of being a perfectionist, calculated and controlling. That is his character,' his lawyer Francois van Zyl told Sneha Mashru, who is Anni's cousin and a State witness, during cross-examination.

He was trying to cast doubt on the testimony she gave on Monday, in which she described how strange it had been that British businessman Dewani seemed so focused in planning Anni's funeral instead of being sad and grieving.

She stayed at Dewani's Bristol home after he returned from South Africa, on November 17, 2010, and said she felt very uncomfortable there and that he acted in a very cold and controlling way.

She heard him say to his father that his shoulders were very stiff and he needed to get a massage. He also said his suits were too big for him and he needed to go the tailors.

He also ate a lot of food while she could barely find her appetite.

Van Zyl offered explanations for this behaviour and suggested that her perceptions were perhaps incorrect.

He said Dewani's shoulder was sore because he had injured it while exiting the car during the hijacking.

Regarding the suits, he was a perfectionist and wanted to make sure that his suits fitted him properly because he had suddenly lost weight and wanted to look decent at the funeral.

"The accused will say that he was not the only one involved [in the planning]. Other people actually did most of the planning and submitted to him a Word document which he edited," the lawyer said.

Mashru replied that she saw Dewani checking everything and making sure it was the way he wanted it to be.

She asked him at the time why he did not ask Anni's father Vinod to help with the arrangements.

"He got angry and said I am the husband and I make the decisions."

Van Zyl handed up a string of e-mails between Dewani's family and an events planner who was tasked with "celebrating Anni's life".

The lawyer said this showed that other people were largely involved in the planning of the large funeral, which was held over three days and attended by over 1500 people.

"I never denied the fact that other people were involved in the planning. I said it was strange that Shrien could be so focused," Mashru replied.

The cousin had also testified about how cold and loveless Dewani seemed when they were preparing Anni's corpse for burial, saying he shoved bangles onto her swollen wrists with force and she told him to stop.

Van Zyl said the body was swollen and Dewani struggled to put the bangles on. He also straightened her sari and a necklace so that it looked right.

Mashru said she expected him to be more sad and could not see the love he had for her in that moment.

Changing tack, the lawyer said it was incorrect for her to testify that the Dewani family only cared about their reputation and that Shrien's previous broken engagement was taboo.

"The accused will tell the court that his family was absolutely supportive of him at the time. Their concern was not the reputation of the family. Their concern was that their children should be happy," he said.

Van Zyl added that there had been a number of previous broken engagements and divorces in the family and that they accepted these things happened.

Mashru wanted to relay what Anni had told her about this but could not because it was hearsay evidence.

She said she could not then comment.


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