Vinod Hindocha had never been to South Africa. The first time he came was to collect his daughter’s body. The next trips would be to see her husband in the dock for her murder. Here Vinod Hindocha remembers his horror at Shrien Dewani’s revelations in court
In a few short sentences, Shrien had succeeded in confirming that he had a hunger for gay sex and paid male prostitutes. By his own admission, he had also told us he was a liar, a deceitful and secretive individual who had no respect for my daughter’s morals and little morality of his own.
This was the first time I had confirmation my son-in-law was not at all the person he had led us to believe when he courted and married Anni.
Yes, we had read reports about him being gay, but this was coming from his own mouth via his lawyer in the courtroom.
It is difficult to discuss this point without the risk of sounding like a homophobe and I state again, I am not at all against gay people. But to hear that the man who married your daughter had a secret sex life with other men is nothing short of horrifying.
I shudder when I think about the type of activities he paid for with The German Master. If he was so into this stuff, was this why he and Anni so rarely shared a bed?
Nilam was shaking. Anish, Ami and their cousin, Nishma, were snarling as Mr (defence lawyer Francois) Van Zyl skipped past the devastating points he had just made in a matter-of-fact fashion. I couldn’t make out what else he said for a few minutes while the details of the appalling and fraudulent characteristics of the man seated in the dock sank in.
I was angry beyond words. But all I could do was sit and try to look as impassive as possible, as I knew all eyes would be on me. I saw some members of the media shaking their heads in disbelief as others wrote reports on their laptops and mobiles, some updating the world through Twitter.
Most people in that courtroom would probably have felt some sympathy for me because of this utter deception. But I was more heartbroken for Anni. She was as innocent as they come and she had been taken in by this Shrien creature.
Her softness and sweet, unsuspecting nature would have been a pushover for Shrien. I now knew why he had rejected her by refusing to sleep with her. He was into men and Anni would have had absolutely no knowledge or suspicion of this.
She would not have tolerated it and she would not have married him if she had known about his true sexuality. Anni was a modern, but at the same time cultured, woman who I am sure had gay friends she respected and did not judge. But she wanted children and would have believed she was marrying a straight man.
Shrien’s secret would have been the last thing she suspected of him even as he pushed her away repeatedly. He had concealed his private life and taken Anni in as well as all of the Hindocha family.
People marry and can turn out to be lazy, job-shy alcoholics, adulterers or even abusers. Shrien was none of these. He was something else which no father could have prepared for in his list of common anxieties when agreeing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage.
But all the problems in their relationship, the arguments, the break-ups and the acrimony, made sense now. The puzzle was beginning to fall into place in the most distasteful manner. I wondered how we had missed this. What a bolt out of the blue!
My poor Anni had been pulled into Shrien’s bleak and desperate life.
Shrien went on, in his “plea explanation”, to tell of how he had met Anni and “was instantly physically attracted to her, loved her bubbly personality and sensed that there was a mutual chemistry”.
I was amazed at how, within a few seconds of delivering his revelations of liaisons with male prostitutes, online encounters and gay club meetings, he could move immediately back to his story of love for Anni.
Shrien’s lawyer told the court of his client’s abnormally low hormone levels which had given him reproduction problems. He underwent testosterone replacement therapy, which he had been warned had a number of side-effects, such as “blood clots, sleep apnoea, mood swings, breast enlargement, hair loss, acne and weight gain”. Shrien had decided to go ahead with the treatment because “having my own family was important to me”.
Really, I asked myself as I listened to his clever summary of why he was innocent. And this was all before any evidence of prosecution had been put to the judge.
I wondered if all this might have been too clever. It was a pre-emptive strike. But it was highly unusual and the judge would surely make a note of that.
Shrien even produced an e-mail he had written to Anni after they had rowed on May 24, 2010. Now he was using private correspondence between them to head off the prosecution charges.
His e-mail to Anni, given to the court, read:
I think it is better if I write this rather than say it on the phone as then you can read it over and over.
I am really upset after our conversation. I realise we are very different but I have always believed in a relationship you can work through those differences.
When we first met I immediately liked you... And no not just because you are pretty... but because you made me laugh. We had such a good time at the first dinner at Asia de Cuba.
I have always wanted a girl I can be friends with. One that understands me – and I know that is not easy. I know that I am so focused that some people think I am intense.
I am focused on achieving things in life. I want to be someone who can do things – and that is not just about making money, but it is about having a rounded social life.
A family, a business, an input into the community.
When we first met and started dating I knew that you were that girl. It does need to be right for both of us though.
I can’t believe that I’m gonna write this, and I actually have tears in my eyes as I write it, but if you really think being with me is not going to make you happy then this is not right for you.
I really hope that is not what you are saying but I don’t want to feel like I have forced you into something.
I really do love you, and hence I don’t want you to be unhappy. I want to be with you for ever but not if that makes you unhappy.
I am really sorry that I have made you feel like this. You are so precious to me – I know I don’t always show it. I often find it difficult to show how much you mean to me but please do not think this is because I don’t love you. Speak to you later.
Love always. Shrien
My stomach turned at the words he used to tell the court of his love for Anni. If he truly loved her, surely he would have stayed with her when the killers wanted to throw him out of the taxi and he would certainly not have deceived her about his sexuality.
Shrien told of the disagreements that preceded the wedding and how Anni wanted to call it off after a row on September 21, during which she said he was controlling. But he had got in touch with me to “calm her down”.
I wished I hadn’t got involved on his behalf and thought, if only Anni could have had her way...
There was no mention of the tension at the wedding, merely the fact that it had taken place. He then recalled how he had taken Anni to the Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge in Kruger National Park and then on to Cape Town for the second part of the honeymoon, where he employed (Zola) Tongo at the airport.
Much of what Shrien went on to say was about changing money, talking to Tongo about a helicopter ride with Anni and about where to go for dinner. He even mentioned the international chef, Jamie Oliver, who had visited a restaurant near Gugulethu. Tongo took them both to see it.
I was expecting Shrien to give us the details of what had happened to Anni before he left her alone with the killers once he and Tongo were no longer in the vehicle.
If this was the explanation of his not guilty plea, then surely now would be the time to tell us what happened. But no, he was having none of it.
When, I wondered, would he tell us what happened? He had taken the bold decision to reveal all this before the prosecution opened, to tell his side of the story.
But it was only a partial story. He went on to say: “As a consequence of the traumatic experience which resulted in the loss of my wife I have been hospitalised for over three years and have suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. This, and the resultant flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks, have affected my memory and impacted on my ability to precisely and chronologically recall events concerning this terrible incident.”
There you had it. He was going to tell us only what he wanted to and because of his illnesses his memory had been impaired. He described how they had gone out for dinner and while travelling back to their hotel, their taxi was hijacked. He went on: “We were both terrified and immediately complied with demands. I was lying half on top of Anni. Another person was behind the steering wheel.”
Shrien said one of the attackers turned his attention to him. “He placed the gun against my left ear and said words to the effect that I should not lie to him or he would shoot me. I heard a clicking noise from the gun which scared me even more. I have never been close to a real gun before.”
Nor had Anni ever been in such close proximity to a gun.
When Shrien said the attackers were going to let them go separately I saw further proof of his cowardice. If the attackers were going to let them go separately, then why did he not make sure his wife was freed first?
Anni was a woman screaming for her life and that should have resonated with her husband. He should have thought about her safety first and foremost.
In a similar situation, I know for a fact that I would never leave Nilam alone. Nobody lays a finger on my wife, and I suppose that phrase “Over my dead body” is appropriate here.
What happened next is well known. Shrien and Tongo survived. Anni was shot dead.
I was glad when the judge adjourned for a 15-minute tea break, which was to become the norm each day.
Nilam and I left for a side room and we could hardly speak to each other, such was the shock and sense of betrayal we felt. It was clear now that the prosecution were going to use details of Shrien’s secret sex life to prove the motive for murdering Anni.
He was, on the surface, a “good Hindu boy”, but now he was going to have to face up to the claim he married her to disguise his sordid background and had used her. I wondered whether Anni had discovered his hidden true self during their honeymoon and was about to expose him.
Could this be why she met her death? Back in the court I stared long and hard at Shrien as he re-entered the courtroom. He would not look at me. I was full of contempt for him. Horrified. Sickened. Angry.
But I was disgusted at how he had deceived Anni more than anything else.
* This is an extract from Anni Dewani: A Father’s Story by Vinod Hindocha published by Zebra Press at a recommended retail price of R220.