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Dewani trial: Why none of the stories makes sense

Dan Newling, a Cape based journalist who writes for the UK Daily Mail, has taken an in-depth look at the murder of Anni Dewani while she was on honeymoon in Cape Town during 2010.

The article, which includes substantial details of the events leading up to the murder, includes a number of compelling questions which will need to be decided by the trial court — if this trial does proceed with Shrien Dewani as an accused.

As things presently stand Dewani, Anni’s husband, has been accused by the South African authorities of masterminding her murder by simulating a hijacking whose only real purpose was her death. This is pursuant to evidence obtained from Zola Tongo, the taxi driver, who drove the Dewanis around during their stay.

The South African authorities have made an application for Shrien’s extradition from the United Kingdom as a result of which the UK courts and home secretary have already confirmed that Dewani should be transferred to Cape Town. Shrien still has two further opportunities to avoid this — the Supreme Court (to which he is currently appealing) and the European Courts.

The fact that Dewani is resisting extradition must not be construed as a sign of his guilt. As I have pointed out in a previous article any criminal attorney worth their salt would employ all avenues available to protect their client, which is what they are doing.

If however these legal blocks should prove ineffective then the guilt or innocence of Dewani will, to a greater degree, be determined at trial by the Judge’s reading of the evidence surrounding an alleged sexual assault on Anni.

The reason is far simpler than most would imagine.

In accordance with both the Tongo and Dewani versions, Shrien and the taxi driver were evicted from the vehicle prior to the murder of Anni taking place.

Accordingly if the motive was rape or some other form of sexual assault, then Dewani’s version has credibility, if it was not the basis for the hijacking then only Tongo’s version can have merit.

If the intention was murder then the early release of Dewani and Tongo is nonsensical. Why would hijackers only murder one victim and release two state witnesses who can easily identify them? The answer is that they wouldn’t. Murdering three people in those circumstances, believe it or not, makes far more sense than killing one person and leaving the other two to identify the perpetrators.

If the intention was rape or some other form of sexual assault then the prior release of the two males accompanying Anni, who may have tried to come to her aid, does make sense. The murder, unintended at the outset, may have resulted from an ensuing struggle.

Of course the judge will be guided by the evidence of the pair after the murder.

In this regard Tongo and Dewani should be firmly on the same side if Shrien’s version is correct. The fact that they aren’t does pose a number of questions but these can be answered at the trial if it proceeds.

Truth is always stranger than fiction and readers must not make up their minds in advance.


  • Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook


  1. Dave Dave 6 November 2011

    I think the author may be placing a little too much common sense in minds of the murders. Perhaps, if they truly were such logical beings, they would not have been caught or even more logically the crime would not have taken place.

  2. OneFlew OneFlew 6 November 2011

    It is a strange case. However I disagree with you on a few points.

    If the motive of Anni was murder, and if it was arranged on behalf of Shrien and in collaboration with Tongo, then of course it makes perfect sense for them to have released Shrien and Tongo.

    Tongo is in prison for the killing. Why would an innocent man – a victim – have struck such a plea bargain?

    And why would Tongo have decided to arrange the killing of Anni?

    Even the evidence of a sexual assault could fit: it may be what the perpetrators wanted the authorities to believe was the motive. A rape gone wrong, not a hit.

    Of course Dewani may be innocent. But that doesn’t mean that none of the stories make sense.

  3. The Creator The Creator 7 November 2011

    With all due respect, this is one of the thinnest posts I’ve ever seen on this website, and I’ve seen some. And the one with the most misleading title.

    Sorry, but I also wouldn’t believe a Daily Mail journalist who told me that the sky was blue. I’d want it cross-checked from someone reputable.

  4. Steve Steve 7 November 2011

    What i never understood, is why Tonga would sacrifice his car for a measly R5000 ? Surely that doesnt make sense…

  5. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 7 November 2011

    Motive?? Dewani marries Annie because he will be disgraced if he does not marry her? Dewani plans a hit on Annie to solve the issue but one must suppose that any murderer with an inkling of intelligence would ask the main questions and that is “What If”:- it goes wrong:- Annie is only injured:- the cops find out or witnesses squeal as they apparently did. Diwani could not have hoped to get insurance money from Annie’s death or the acceptance of her family after he and she had suffered such an unfortunate event? If money was not the motive and I would like to know how it could have been the motive,. Why not simply not show up at the wedding, take the disgrace and move on? Perhaps our now disgraced Police “General” was the master mind behind all this to save the face of South Africa and impress his great friend JZ?? This case has never made any sense and the mystery continues. I cannot imagine how any person could plan to marry someone only with the intention of killing her as soon as possible? If Dewani is guilty of this horric crime he deserves all that he gets and will also prove his absolute stupidity in the process. Insure someone for a huge sum and then have them bumped off a few days later?? I wonder?? Place your trust an life in the hands of strangers that you have formed a criminal alliance with? Dewani are you stupid??

  6. George Ingram George Ingram 7 November 2011

    If the motive was hijacking (a vehicle) why leave the vehicle behind after committing murder (deliberately or accidentally) of one of the occupants ?.

    If not a vehicle hijack what was the motive to take the vehicle and even one passenger ??.

    The only conclusion is that the intention was not to take the vehicle but to take a passenger – but for what purpose – that’s the question.

  7. Lockstock Lockstock 8 November 2011

    South Africa is a nation made up of a large percentage of criminals. These criminals follow no reasonable pattern or consistency. Burglars are also rapists, home invaders turn into baby throwers, pimps are murderers. You all live in a land where two men can casually stroll down the road and spot a lone, vulnerable female and after a brief discussion, and no doubt agreement, can rape and murder her on a whim. What sort of people do these things?

    It is clear to me – once you consider the irrationality and unpredictability of SA’s criminal class – that Dewani and his bride were seen as moneyed targets by three pieces of filth. Tongo was the spotter who would feign being a victim, while the other two thugs pretended to hi-jack, and then go on to robbing the couple. The ‘hijack’ was a necessary part of the plan to ensure all looked ‘pukka’. The rape was just a means of adding a bit of vile entertainment to the evening for these scum.

    If Dewani is guilty of anything, it is of being a coward. His actions and response to this entire mess confirms this as he retracts further and further from life.

    Remaining SAns need to take a long, hard look at how they have reacted to this crime. Blaming Dewani over your average, run-of-the-mill Saffer scum speaks volumes of SA’s insecurities. I am beyond incensed at how remaining Saffers have responded to this. It is all quite disgusting. I hope SA’s tourism industry is irreparably damaged.

  8. Mysterious Mysterious 8 November 2011

    Hmm What can I say this article is way too thinly spread and true not a quality article by the M&G!!
    You can look at this from so many perspectives however what makes sense and is logical most often is not rational when you dealing with these types of people. I certainly would have thought that you might light shed to the story from another angle.

    We already familiar with the above situation, either way doesn’t make sense.

  9. Kabelo Kabelo 8 November 2011

    Sometimes common sense is not critical in solving crimes of this nature. Only the best lawyers in whatever country will “win” this case. Law of evidence approach is critical in this case, as in all the other criminal cases. Why did Tongo go for plea bargain? Only he knows!!! We can assume that the lesser sentence was his last option. Nevertheless, he (Tongo) was convicted on his side of the story. Dewani must wait to testify , hopefully, in a SA court of law, his side of the story. Obviously contrary to that of Tongo. #May the best lawyers show some law pedigree#

  10. Izelle Izelle 9 November 2011

    @Lockstock: I am a “remaining” Saffer and I am “beyond incensed” at your generalisation of us all as “average, run-of-the-mill Saffer scum”. Get a life, bru!! Wait for the trial before launching into such a sorry diatribe.

  11. Paleface Paleface 9 November 2011

    This was a pre-arranged set up whereby the “high-jackers” would kill Anni for a fee. The money was paid to the taxi driver who in turn was going to pay the killers. Why would the high-jackers kill Shrien and the taxi driver – who was going to pay them. The whole senario makes perfect sense to everyone except perhaps Michael Trapido.

  12. Lockstock Lockstock 9 November 2011

    Read my points again Izelle. I did not say average Saffers are scum, but did refer to average Saffer scum (and the fact that they are quite common).

    And I most certainly wish South Africans had taken the time wait for a trial, or at least for all the evidence to be hashed out before lynching the man. Atrocious treatment. You should all be ashamed of yourselves, not defending your attitude in any way. The entire Dewani affair and subsequent vicious public reaction revealed just how sick your society is. It was a symptom of some very deep underlying social problems, and it appears no one is bent on addressing them. Much easier to swat than solve, hey?

  13. save SA vote DA save SA vote DA 22 November 2011

    the most compelling piece of evidence is the CCTV footage for Dewani paying the taxi driver $5K the morning after the incident. This speaks louder than anything.

  14. Nguni Nguni 23 November 2011

    Any criminal attorney worth his salt would NOT hide his client from a court case UNLESS he knows that he’s guilty and stands a good chance of losing the case..

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