Honeymoon day trip that ended in bride's murder

South African police hopeful of arrests as details emerge of Anni Dewani’s final hours

By Mark Hughes,Crime Correspondent
Tuesday 16 November 2010 01:00

The husband of a woman who was murdered as she honeymooned with her British husband in South Africa said last night that their attackers insisted they "wouldn't hurt her".

Anni Dewani, 28, is believed to have been shot three times and left for dead after the vehicle, a Volkswagen Sharan, in which she and her husband were travelling, was carjacked. Mrs Dewani and her husband Shrien, a businessman from Bristol, had been married for two weeks when their people carrier was targeted on the outskirts of Cape Town on Saturday night.

According to reports last night, Shrien Dewani, aged 30, said he felt powerless at being unable to save his wife: "Of course I have an enormous amount of guilt about the whole episode. However, having gone through events over and over again in my mind, it is difficult to see how we could have done things differently."

As police pledged to catch the "useless scoundrels" who killed the Swedish-born engineer, her father paid tribute to his "beautiful" daughter. Vinod Hindocha, told the Swedish newspaper Expressen: "It's just terrible. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. There aren't words to describe her. She was a dream girl."

Mr Dewani said they had eaten dinner in the Cape Winelands region when they asked their taxi driver to take them to Gugulethu to see some of "the real Africa", and that the taxi was attacked by two men as they drove through the Gugulethu township shortly after 10pm. "They put a gun in my ear. The men kept on saying, 'We are not going to hurt you. We just want the car.' That was a lie."

The gunmen threw him out of the hijacked taxi's window. Mr Dewani then knocked on doors in the township, convincing one resident to call the police, who arrived 25 minutes later. Mrs Dewani's body was found the following morning, dumped in the back of the taxi, miles from where they were originally attacked.

Police say they have identified "key suspects" in the hunt for the killers and expect to make arrests within days. Albert Fritz, the Western Cape Community Safety Minister said that the investigation is proceeding "very rapidly indeed". He said: "The officers have identified their suspects. The evidence the police have gathered so far suggests that these were seasoned criminals who knew what they were doing.

"We expect to see a major development and arrests in the coming days. People like this would have shown no mercy and we are determined to take them off the streets and bring them to justice."

Loved ones, many of whom who had only recently attended the couple's wedding in Mumbai, have posted messages of condolence on Facebook. One, from Ami Denborg, read: "My dearest little sister. I will miss you so much. It's so hard to imagine a life without you being a part of it. Your laugh, your smile, your style, everything about you is so wonderful. I love you. May you rest in peace."

Rishi Kotecha added: " 'I'll always be two weeks ahead of you in life' is what you always used to say to me, being two weeks older than me... now you will always be ahead of me as life can never be the same without you, sis. Your happiness and energy will for-ever be missed."

Guests at the wedding on 29 October also posted messages. Shivani Pala said: "You looked beautiful on that day and I remember the way you smiled at me and what you said. The wedding was perfect and both families hosted us so well, which is reflective of what wonderful people you all are. We mourn the loss of a life cut short so tragically and pray that god gives strength to Shrien, your mother, father, brothers, sisters and both the Hindocha and Dewani families."

In a joint statement, the South African police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, and the police commissioner-general, Bheki Cele, said "all resources" would be deployed to "speedily bring the perpetrators of this despicable crime to book".

They added: "As a government we remain firm that such selfish actions shall not deter us from our determination to keep our society safe from useless scoundrels." Western Cape Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut refused to comment on the cause of death but said a post-mortem examination would take place in the coming days. Fingerprints found in the vehicle are said to have been identified as those of a "known criminal".

Mrs Dewani, is believed to have moved from Sweden to England recently. Earlier this year she entered Bristol's Next Top Model competition.

The couple lived with family members in a large 1920s house in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, and a neighbour said tonight that their relatives were "heartbroken".

Mr Dewani, 30, gave up a career in the city to join his father's healthcare business in 2005. The brothers attended Bristol Grammar School and founded PSP Healthcare with their father in 2005. PSP, which stands for People Supporting People, run luxury nursing and retirement homes in Wales and the South West.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the situation and are providing consular assistance to a British national."

How dangerous is South Africa?

An average of 50 people are murdered in South Africa every day – 18,000 a year, which is around 17,500 more than in the UK. Attempted murders too are just as high. It is a grim statistic, but one that is improving rapidly.

"Contrary to what many people think, the murder rate, while still extremely high, is down by about 44 per cent since 1995. That's a huge decrease," said Johan Burger, senior researcher in the crime and justice programme at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.

South Africa's "culture of gangsters, drugs, rape, robbery and a murder every 25 minutes", as one newspaper described it, became a significant talking point in the run up to last summer's World Cup, held in the country. But while these problems exist, they are, to a large extent, confined to areas that are not usually frequented by tourists. KwaMashu, a township outside Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, has been being dubbed South Africa's murder capital by the media, with 300 killings in 2009.

"What is important to understand about our high crime rate is that we know from research that approximately 80 per cent of our murders happen within a very specific social context, mostly between people that know one another," said Dr Burger.

"There is something wrong within some of our communities in terms of the social interaction and the social conditions. The gap between rich and poor is still widening and it leads to what is seen as relative deprivation.

"The people in the very, very poor communities see wealth. It is not just a gap, it is a visible gap. The situation is aggravated by poor service delivery. Many of our municipalities are in complete disarray. This then leads to dissatisfaction. People protest, sometimes very violently."

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments