A week after honeymoon bride's murder, what can be the 'explosive revelation'?

South African police arrest third man - and hint that the crime was more than just a carjack

Susie Mesure
Sunday 21 November 2010 01:00
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Shrien and Anni Dewani should be three weeks into married life. Instead, tragically, Shrien is coming to terms with life as a widower, one week after his wife was shot dead while they were honeymooning in South Africa.

Police in the Western Cape yesterday arrested a third suspect in connection with the murder, which occurred after the Dewanis' taxi was carjacked late last Saturday night in Gugulethu, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The latest arrest came after local media reports this weekend promised "an explosive revelation", saying police sources believe there is more to the case than a random hijacking.

The case, which has stunned not only the Dewanis' family but the entire Rainbow Nation, poses numerous questions for South Africa's stretched police force. Not the least of these concerns is the nature of the assault; and what the newlyweds were doing driving late at night through some of the country's most notorious settlements, when most honeymooners would have been enjoying the luxuries of their exclusive hotel on Cape Town's waterfront. In Gugulethu alone, 700 people have been murdered since 2005.

Then there is the perilous financial position of Mr Dewani's family firm. PSP Healthcare, the care home chain he set up with his father and brother in 2005, is £6.25m in debt and has yet to file its returns for this year.

It took the police barely 48 hours to arrest the first suspect, Xolile Mngeni, a 26-year-old from Khayelitsha, a neighbouring township where Anni Dewani's body was found. A fingerprint found on the bonnet of the Volkswagen Sharan that the couple hired, with a driver, to take them around the city allegedly ties him to the crime scene. On Thursday, a second suspect was detained. Police also revealed they had found a watch, a bangle and two mobile phones, thought to belong to the couple and linked to the two suspects.

Much remains unexplained: South Africa's national police chief, General Bheki Cele, told a press conference last week that there was "a crack in the case and more arrests will follow". But while police claimed Anni Dewani, 28, had not been raped, raising uncertainty about the attackers' motives, a local witness said the state of her body suggested otherwise. A student from Khayelitsha said: "When the policeman opened the door, I saw blood. Her panties were pulled below her knees and her dress pushed up to her stomach. She was exposed and her face was turned towards the door. The policemen quickly closed the door and pushed us away."

Captain Frederick van Wyk, the police spokesman, yesterday said the latest suspect, a 31-year-old man from Cape Town, would appear in court tomorrow on charges of hijacking and murder. He said detectives had also seized a firearm "which could be linked to the crime", adding: "Several leads are currently being followed in a bid to solve the case." But he refused to comment on specifics, telling the IoS: "I cannot elaborate on anything else. All the other stuff will come up in court."

Mr Dewani, 30, who last week returned to Britain with his wife's body and was thus unavailable to identify any suspects, said the couple had ventured to Gugulethu in search of the "real Africa". They were heading for Mzoli's Place, a local braai, or barbecue restaurant, tipped as one of the Cape's most popular hang-outs with celebrities and international visitors alike, according to a local tour firm, which takes intrepid holidaymakers around Gugulethu – in daylight hours. Jamie Oliver was snapped last year sitting outside Mzoli's, for the cover of his own magazine.

The pair, however, had just eaten, at a restaurant in the town of Somerset West. And Mzoli's, which regularly attracts hundreds of customers during the day, is widely known to shut by 6pm. Yet the Dewanis' driver still drove them there, where the taxi was hijacked by two men. The driver, who was not one of the Cape Grace hotel's known chauffeurs and who police said last week was not a suspect, was left behind, and the car sped off. Mr Dewani later said their attackers had claimed they would not be hurt, telling them, "We just want the car." But after 20 minutes, he was pushed out of the moving car, never to see his wife again. The car, along with Anni Dewani's body, was found abandoned only hours later, early on Sunday morning, in Khayelitsha.

South Africans fear the affair will have undone all the good press their country won during the football World Cup. Already, tour operators are reporting a drop in bookings, as potential visitors focus on the country's sky-high murder rate. Around 46 people, on average, are killed every day in the country, although a mere fraction of cases get the sort of round-the-clock police attention given to the late Mrs Dewani. Although there are no suggestions that Mr Dewani was involved, locals are desperate to believe there was more to the assault.

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