Terri Judd: From shocked victim to murder 'accomplice'

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The Independent Online

In just a few weeks Shrien Dewani has gone from being the heartbroken victim of an unimaginably cruel crime to a man accused of plotting a murder.

On 14 November, Mr Dewani, 31, had to be sedated after hearing that his 28-year-old wife's body had been found in the back of a taxi, apparently another random victim of the 50 murders a day in South Africa. Images of the blissful couple on their wedding day in India a fortnight earlier were broadcast.

After a comparatively crime-free World Cup, the South African authorities were keen not to shatter the country's image as a tourist destination and swiftly put pressure on the police to solve the case. Police chiefs said that "all resources" would be deployed to "speedily bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to book".

The case led to many questions and speculation in the media. Why, they asked, did a wealthy couple choose to go into a dangerous township after dinner that night? How did Mr Dewani manage to survive unscathed, leaving his wife to meet her fate?

Three days later Mr Dewani left the country to accompany his wife's body back to Britain. Before leaving, he tried to answer his critics and quash the speculation. "I don't want to go into detail about what happened during the attack, because I will probably start crying. But they were so cold. They put a gun in my ear and pulled back the trigger – it was the stuff of movies."

He said it was his wife who had wanted to venture out of the normal tourist areas to see the "real Africa".

"Anni grew up in Sweden, and she felt as if the area around this hotel was just like at home: so clean and safe, and maybe a bit sterile."

As three men were arrested and charged with murder, including the couple's driver, leaks began to emerge from the police suggesting this was a "planned hit".

A newspaper report that PSP Healthcare, the care home service Mr Dewani runs with his brother and father, was £4.1m in debt was swiftly followed by a statement from the company's auditors that they had no concern about its financial standing or trading position. The family hired the publicist Max Clifford to counter any accusations as "outrageous".

Ten days after his wife was killed, Mr Dewani gave an interview to The Sun newspaper. He said: "I'd searched high and low for my perfect partner. Anni was the 'One'. Her looks, her laughter her personality, her spirit – everything about her was right for me. Why would I want to kill her? People who suggest this could not have seen us together. Saying I was somehow involved simply defies logic."

Claims emerged that the arrested men were being beaten for confessions. Sources started insisting that the family believed he was being set up as police were under political pressure to arrest a foreigner. Yesterday the contradictions continued. As the taxi driver Zola Tongo – who was jailed for 18 years after making a plea agreement with the prosecutors – accused Mr Dewani of offering him money to hire hitmen, the police still refused to confirm whether the Briton was a suspect or not.