Indian Bride murdered on South African 'honeymoon' was not officially married
4th December 2010
Walking arm in arm by the warm Indian Ocean that Saturday evening, the ‘honeymoon’ couple might have felt they made the perfect choice when they came to South Africa for this most romantic of holidays.
Yet, just a few hours later, Anni Hindocha would be dead, executed with a bullet to the back of her head, while the man she loved was left to make sense of a murder that has become the subject of intense speculation across the globe.
The controversy has involved the couple’s relatives and friends from four countries — Britain, South Africa, Sweden and India — as well as, bizarrely, the PR man Max Clifford.
At the centre of this tragedy is Anni, a beautiful 28-year-old whose body has now been flown to Britain and cremated after a family funeral and Hindu prayer service.
Her father, Vinod Hindocha, has described how he fought back his emotions when he saw his daughter lying in her coffin: ‘My girl was so pretty. She looked calmly asleep and in peace. There was not a scratch visible on her face. I was so relieved about that.’
As for the man described as Anni’s husband, 30-year-old Shrien Dewani, he is reported to be under sedation at his West Country home.
A wealthy businessman from Bristol who runs a series of care homes, he is receiving counselling after bringing Anni’s body back here.
He is also in constant touch with Mr Clifford, whom he has hired for advice, but this week was refusing all media requests for an interview.
Inexplicably, the handsome Shrien, an accountant by training, has not been called back to South Africa by police to attend an identity parade of three local men who have now been charged with kidnap, robbery and murder.
Even as Mr Dewani keeps his counsel, though, the list of nagging inconsistencies surrounding Anni’s death grows.
Not least among them is the fact that, as the Mail can reveal today, the lavish £200,000 ‘marriage’ they went through in Mumbai in November in front of 300 guests was never officially registered there, or indeed anywhere else in the world.
In other words, the honeymooners were never honeymooners at all.
Not only that, an intriguing letter, sent this week to the Mail from people claiming to be Anni’s friends, asks troubling questions about Anni’s late-night abduction in a dangerous black township of Gugulethu, several miles from their Cape Town hotel.
She was found lying in an abandoned, blood-stained taxi on November 14 after an all-night police search.
Shrien says that nine hours earlier he was thrown out of the ‘back window’ of the same taxi at gunpoint and left, bewildered and alone, to sound the alarm.
So, what really happened to Anni, the girl who looked so happy in her ‘wedding’ photos a few weeks earlier?
Having studied as an engineer in Sweden, where she grew up with her parents and two siblings — her father sells heavy duty electrical equipment — she met Shrien Dewani in September 2009 after travelling to the UK to visit relatives.
It has emerged that, at the time, Shrien had just abruptly cancelled plans for a wedding to 26-year-old Rani Kansagra, the daughter of the London-based multi-millionaire founder of Indian budget airline SpiceJet.
Shrien says he fell for Anni at first sight, and within weeks he had proposed to her.
In February of this year, Anni left her job as a project manager at the Swedish mobile phone giant Ericsson in Stockholm, and was preparing to move permanently to Bristol to help organise their grand ceremony in Mumbai, where both had relatives.
One friend of Shrien whom the couple invited to India says: ‘It was a lavish event at an expensive hotel which has lawns running down to a lake. Guests flew in from London with Shrien and Anni. Everyone believed they were a couple made for each other.’
On the flight back home to London, it appears the couple were not on speaking terms.
A woman claiming to be an air hostess on the flight has said that Anni looked unhappy and was in tears.
‘One of my colleagues brought her some tissues,’ she recalls. ‘The couple did not speak one word to each other during the nine-hour flight. We all noticed and found this strange.’
The disturbing account was posted on a website and written under the hostess’s first name.
True or not, a few days later, Anni and Shrien flew off again — this time on honeymoon to South Africa.
They arrived in Johannesburg and travelled straight to the Kruger National Park for a game safari, before going on to the five-star Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town.
It had been booked by Shrien’s secretary in London, who, according to him, had also arranged for a taxi driver in a silver VW Sharan people-carrier from a local tour company, Platinum Escapes, to pick them up from the airport on Friday, November 12.
The driver’s name was Zola Tongo, a local man from a township near the city.
Thirty-one-year-old Tongo must have noticed that Anni and Shrien, who has been described as ‘showy about money’, were well off.
They were wearing jewellery, their luggage was expensive and Anni looked as though she had just stepped out of a Bond Street boutique.
At the end of the journey from the airport to the hotel via the N2 motorway, which threads its way through the notoriously dangerous black townships dotted around Cape Town, Shrien took Tongo’s mobile phone number and promised to call him if he and Anni wanted to take a trip out.
He and Anni spent the Saturday by the hotel pool. They phoned their relatives in England and Sweden, who say they sounded ecstatically happy.
Shrien made the call to Tongo and asked him to collect them at 7.30 in the evening to take them on a sightseeing tour of Cape Town. They both changed into smart outfits.
Anni was wearing a dress and one of the golden necklaces she was given during the Mumbai ceremony. Shrien was sporting a designer suit and open-necked shirt.
It was already dark when the taxi driver arrived, again in the Volkswagen people-carrier.
His company has said he was acting as ‘a freelance’ that night and Shrien had arranged to pay him in cash.
The couple were driven around the city, past the new football stadium where the World Cup was staged this summer.
What happened next is unclear. Shrien says that he asked Tongo to drive out towards Somerset West, a seaside town on the eastern side of the Cape overlooking the Indian Ocean. It was already 8.30pm.
Shrien had booked a table at 96 Winery Road, one of the Cape region’s top restaurants; but when the couple arrived, he says they thought it was too formal for them.
So they decided to head for the more informal Surfside Restaurant, which overlooks the sea at Strand, a little way along the coast from Somerset West. The couple asked Tongo to wait in the people-carrier while they took a walk by the sea.
By 9.30, they were eating sushi and curry, served by Surfside waiters Dayne Keen and Tamar Van Der Merwe. Shrien had a vodka, and Anni a glass of wine.
Dayne says the two of them appeared to be very much in love.
Tamar adds: ‘The woman seemed very sweet. They just chatted to each other. I did not see them kiss or hold hands.’
Soon after ten, Shrien and Anni were ready to go. They walked outside to the waiting Tongo in the people-carrier and set off back to the Cape Grace.
Shrien has given the Mail his version of what happened next. He did so in the tea room of his hotel the day after Anni was found murdered.
It is likely, of course, that he was in shock, and yet what he told us differs substantially from a second account he gave a week later.
Displaying no marks on his face, he told the Mail’s reporter, Dan Newling: ‘We had been planning on just coming back to the city centre and having a drink in the Waterfront area.
'But Anni grew up in Sweden and, to be honest, she felt as if the area around this hotel was just like at home: so clean and safe, a bit sterile.
‘She had never been to Africa before, so she suggested we should have a look at the “real Africa”.
‘The stop was on the way back here, and was intended so that we could experience a township.’
However, when Shrien was asked by journalists to tell his story again seven days later — after he had taken what some would see as the extraordinary step of retaining Max Clifford — the details had changed.
This time, he insisted that it was Tongo — who continually made calls to what Shrien described as the driver’s ‘friends’ on his own mobile phone during the journey — who suggested a detour to the Gugulethu township, just off the N2.
Within a few minutes of arriving in the township, at 10.20, the car was attacked. Two gunmen banged on the window as the taxi stopped at traffic lights. The hijackers pushed the driver Tongo along the front seat and climbed into the car.
One of the gunmen took the wheel, driving for ten minutes before stopping and pushing Tongo out.
The journey then continued, according to Shrien’s description, with the gunmen making threats and swearing in broken English at the couple in the back.
After another ten minutes, Shrien was also pushed out of the car, even though he gave the two gunmen his mobile phone, his wallet and a gold necklace worn by Anni.
Shrien described it this way to the Mail: ‘It was two African male gunmen. They were banging their guns on the window.
'One used his gun to smash the driver’s window. I don’t want to go into detail about the attack, because I will probably start crying, and it might give other criminals ideas.
‘They coldly put a gun in my ear and pulled back the safety catch — it really was the stuff of movies.
‘I was dumped through the back of the passenger window as the car was moving. I landed on a patch of sand, landing first on my shoulder and then my forehead. It was in the middle of the township.
‘I knocked on the doors of some shacks, but no one opened up. Then I noticed a man who was putting away his car and he agreed to call the police.’
By then, Anni had been driven off into the darkness, never to be seen alive again.
A young township girl, who declined to be named, told South African media that she saw Anni’s body as police removed it from the abandoned taxi after it was found about two miles away several hours later.
The student reportedly said: ‘When the policeman opened the door, I saw blood. Her pants 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.’
Despite this, at a press conference held on November 18, South Africa’s Chief of Police Bheki Cele insisted: ‘There is no evidence at the moment that there was a sexual element to the assault.’
So, what became of Shrien as Anni was being killed in the most brutal fashion? He was discovered at around 11pm by a Cape Town accountant named Simbonile Matokazi, who lived in Guguletha.
Simbonile says that when he came across him, the Briton did not have any visible injuries, nor did he look ‘roughed up’.
‘I just saw a decent guy wearing a suit and a nice shirt coming towards me from behind some shacks,’ he says. There were no reports of any blood on his clothing to implicate him in the murder.
Inevitably, local people are asking two questions. Could a grown man fit through the rear passenger window, as Shrien says he did?
'Inevitably, local people are asking two questions. Could a grown man fit through the rear passenger window, as Shrien says he did?'
And having been through such an ordeal, how come his clothes were not torn, or his shoes dirtied?
These are not the only mysteries surrounding Anni’s death. A letter received by the Mail, and signed by ‘the devoted friends and acquaintances of our beloved Anni’, says she knew Nigeria and Kenya well, contradicting Shrien’s suggestion that she had never been to Africa before.
‘It is beyond comprehension that Anni suggested seeing “the real Africa” in such a dangerous area at such a late hour,’ says the letter. ‘She was an intelligent and smart girl.’
The letter, sent by post, was unsigned, but written in perfect English and typed out.
It adds: ‘We believe the South African investigation may be a whitewash, and Anni’s demise is highly mysterious.’
The allegations — and of course they are no more than that — are made all the more fascinating by the fact that, as the Mail discovered this week, the Mumbai ‘wedding’ ceremony, apparently so carefully planned by Shrien, is not recognised as a formal marriage in law.
We have confirmed with the British High Commission in Delhi that the union was never registered in India, and therefore would not have been recognised in either Britain or Sweden.
From his home in Sweden, Anni’s father has also confirmed: ‘My wife and I are Anni’s closest relatives — not Shrien. She was not formally married to Shrien.
'According to the authorities (in Britain and Sweden), Anni was still Miss Hindocha when she died.
‘The marriage registration was not going to happen until March next year, when Anni had her birthday in Britain and they switched rings, which is our custom.’
So, what will happen next in this most intriguing and tragic of cases?
South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper recently reported that Shrien Dewani ‘will be arrested and charged’ in connection with Anni’s murder if he returns to the country, a suggestion rejected by Max Clifford.
If correct, this would be an extraordinary course for the investigation to take.
In the meantime, Anni’s driver on the night she died must return to court to face charges over her death, along with two men — who may have been known to him — from the Khayeltisha township where Anni’s body was found in the taxi.
Those two are claiming they were tortured by South African police into making a confession that they killed Anni. One says detectives ‘assaulted him’, then suffocated him using a plastic bag.
Meanwhile, back in Bristol, Shrien Dewani — who says there was no insurance policy covering Anni’s life, so he does not stand to make a penny from her death — remains silent, grieving for the woman he loved, and awaiting instruction from Max Clifford.