When it was reported that pretty young bride Anni Dewani had been murdered while on honeymoon in South Africa, I was still in the UK, busy winding up to return to India, after having been away for over 8 years. I remember the overwhelming feeling of sympathy I then had for the handsome groom Shrien Dewani, a man I could identify with and feel sorry for. A week or so later, the contrarian shocking reports started coming in. It was alleged by the South African police that the entire car-jacking was ‘fixed’ by Shrien who wanted his bride bumped off. I remember feeling shock and revulsion. How could a man, any man, let someone carry off his wife to be killed? My mind boggled at that very thought. However, once that idea had been floated, I could not dismiss it, though I did still think the chances were that Shrien was innocent. I mean, why would a wealthy Briton want to kill his wife? He could divorce her, if he wanted to, couldn’t he?
Shrien hired publicist Max Clifford to fight some of his battles. This left a very bad taste in the mouth. Why wouldn’t an innocent man boldly face a trial in a court of law? Granted South Africa might not have the same standards as the UK, it was still inconceivable that someone facing such charges wouldn’t want to clear his name at an open trial. Instead Shrien was doing his best to avoid his extradition. South African jails are a nightmare, his lawyers claimed. He would not receive a fair trial, they alleged. Handsome Shrien would be raped as soon as he sets foot inside a South African jail, his publicist trumpeted. The South African government’s case was not helped by its National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele calling Shrien a ‘monkey’.
Now the rumours say that Shrien is gay and was forced into this marriage. There are other stories that Shrien had paid sex with male prostitutes. His family forced him to marry Anni and would not have allowed him to divorce her. If true, it might show a motive for wanting to have his young bride killed.
Shrien is said to be suffering from acute stress and depression. He certainly looks like he is. But then, anyone in his position would be depressed and stressed, wouldn’t they?
The extradition hearings are still going on. Tomorrow, 10 August 2011, yet another hearing will take place. A decision on whether to extradite him to South Africa could be given tomorrow. However, it is likely that the extradition hearings could go on for many more weeks or even months.
I hope that Shrien is extradited to South Africa and given a fair trial. Anything short of that would be a travesty of justice. I mean, the British government has signed an extradition treaty with South Africa. If conditions in South African jails are so bad and no one gets a fair trial out there, would such a treaty have been signed? To say that Shrien should not even be extradited and put on trial in South Africa would be to question the UK-SA extradition treaty itself.
In light of the publicity this case has generated, I also hope that Shrien is not harmed while he is an under-trial in South Africa.