Murder of Anni Dewani

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Anni Dewani
Born Anni Ninna Hindocha
(1982-03-12)12 March 1982
Mariestad, Sweden
Disappeared 13 November 2010 (aged 28)
Gugulethu, South Africa 33°58′42″S 18°34′26″E / 33.97833°S 18.57389°E / -33.97833; 18.57389 (Abduction)
Cause of death Gunshot to neck
Body discovered Lingelethu West, South Africa 34°03′01″S 18°39′23″E / 34.05028°S 18.65639°E / -34.05028; 18.65639 (Body found)
Residence Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, England
Nationality Swedish
Ethnicity Indian
Occupation Engineer
Religion Hindu
Partner(s) Shrien Dewani

Anni Ninna Dewani (née Hindocha; 12 March 1982 – 13 November 2010) was a Swedish woman of Indian origin who, while on her honeymoon in South Africa, was kidnapped and then murdered in Gugulethu township near Cape Town. Taxi driver Zola Robert Tongo later admitted guilt on the charges of murder in a plea bargain, and was sentenced on 7 December 2010 to 18 years in jail.[1] Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to her murder in August 2012 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.[2] Xolile Mngeni, 23, was convicted of her murder on 19 November 2012, and sentenced to life in jail.[3] In July 2014, it was confirmed that a medical parole application had been made for Mngeni who was terminally ill with a brain tumour.[4][5] He was denied parole,[6] and died in jail on 18 October 2014.[7]

In his plea bargain agreement, Zola Tongo stated that Anni's husband, British national Shrien Dewani of Bristol, had offered R15,000 to have his wife killed.[8][9] Following an application by South African authorities, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle ruled in August 2011 that Shrien Dewani could be extradited to face charges in relation to the murder. The extradition order was approved by Home Secretary Theresa May on 28 September 2011. However, a High Court ruling of 30 March 2012 put the extradition on hold, based on expert witness opinion of Shrien Dewani's mental health and prospects for recovery.[10] Shrien Dewani continued to claim innocence within the kidnap and murder plot, while his family described the allegations of Tongo as "totally ludicrous".[11]

Following a long legal battle, in January 2014, the English High Court of Justice rejected Shrien Dewani's plea against extradition to South Africa,[12] and he was extradited to South Africa on 7 April 2014 and taken to court on 8 April 2014.[13] The cost of the extradition to British taxpayers was £250,000.[14]

On 8 December 2014, Shrien Dewani was cleared of all charges, after the South African judge threw out the case.[15]


Anni Dewani[edit]

The Hindocha family, Hindus living in Uganda, were forced to leave the country in the early 1970s after ruler Idi Amin expelled all Asians living there. Granted residence in Sweden in 1975, they settled in Mariestad, where they started their own company and where their daughter Anni was born and raised. After studying electrical engineering at the Gävle University College from 2002 to 2006, she worked at Ericsson and lived in Stockholm.[16] 6 months after her death, in a Hindu ceremony described as "simple but moving", her family scattered her ashes in her favourite area of the Vänern lake.[17][18]

Shrien Dewani[edit]

Shrien Dewani is also a Hindu Lohana and was born in Bristol, and raised at the family home in Westbury-on-Trym. Educated at Bristol Grammar School and the UMIST, he qualified as a chartered accountant with Deloitte, working in the City of London. In 2005 he resigned his position, to help found and run his family's chain of PSP Healthcare old people's homes.[19][20]


Anni Hindocha visited her cousin Sneha in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, in 2009, and met Shrien Dewani through mutual friends. Their first formal date was to watch The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre in London's West End, and they then alternated their weekend meetings between Bristol and Stockholm. After gaining permission from her family, Shrien proposed to Anni at the Hôtel Ritz, Paris, in June 2010, with a £25,000 diamond engagement ring balanced on a red rose.[21] Shortly afterwards, Anni moved to Bristol to be with her fiancé. Under her maiden name, in 2010 Anni entered Bristol's Top Model competition.[16] The couple married at the Lake Powai resort outside Mumbai, India, on 29 October 2010.[20] 500 guests attended the traditional three-day Hindu marriage event.[22] They were planning a civil ceremony that would take place in the UK in 2011, for friends who could not attend the Indian ceremony.[21]


After landing at Cape Town International Airport on 7 November 2010, the couple took an internal flight, and stayed for four nights at the Kruger National Park.[19] On 12 November, the couple returned to Cape Town International Airport, and were then driven by Zola Tongo to the five-star Cape Grace hotel.[23]

Shrien stated that after dining at a restaurant in Strand, and while being driven by Tongo around the Gugulethu township to see "the real Africa" in Tongo's VW Sharan taxi, the taxi had been hijacked by two armed men who removed Tongo.[20][24] He said that, held at gunpoint, the couple were driven around the township, being told by the kidnappers: "We are not going to hurt you. We just want the car."[23] He said that, after 20 minutes, at a distance of 11 miles (18 km) from the original hijacking, after being threatened at gunpoint, he was thrown out of the back window of the moving taxi.[25]

After Shrien flagged down a passing car and contacted the police, a police helicopter spotted the Sharan taxi abandoned 2 miles (3.2 km) away in the township of Khayelitsha.[22] At 07:50 on the morning of 14 November, Anni Dewani was found dead inside the back of the VW Sharan in Lingelethu West.[26] Severely beaten and bruised, she had suffered a single gunshot wound to her neck inflicted by a copy of a TT pistol in 9mm calibre.[27] Police later confirmed that Anni's Giorgio Armani wristwatch, a white-gold and diamond bracelet, her handbag and her BlackBerry mobile phone were missing and assumed stolen.[28][29]


Anni Dewani's body was taken to Cape Town hospital. The post-mortem examination found she had died from a single gunshot wound to the neck, which had severed an artery, and that she was not sexually assaulted.[30]

During this period, after being joined by members of his family, Shrien gave interviews to both the police and the press, where he commented that it was his wife's idea to visit the township and see the "real Africa".[31] On 17 November, Anni Dewani's body was released by the South African authorities and returned to the United Kingdom on a British Airways flight, accompanied by her husband. She was cremated[32] in London[33] in a traditional Hindu ceremony on 20 November.[33] Her ashes were scattered into a lake close to her home town of Mariestad in Sweden.[34]

The high-profile case was given to the Police Hawks investigation unit, led by Captain Paul Hendrikse.[35] On 17 November, the South African police arrested Xolile Mngeni followed two days later by the arrest of Mziwamadoda Qwabe and taxi driver Zola Tongo.[25] All three were charged on 20 November with aggravated robbery, kidnapping and the murder of Anni Dewani.[11] On the same day, police began briefing local South African media that the shooting was a "planned hit," after they had arrested a fourth man, who had acted as an intermediary between Tongo and the two kidnappers.[35] They also asked Shrien to return to South Africa to attend an identity parade.[11][29]

The day after his family hired Max Clifford as their press public relations interface, Shrien issued a press statement in which he said: "I searched high and low for my perfect partner… why would I want to kill her?" Within the statement, Shrien provides an adjusted time line account from previous media comments that he had made on the kidnapping:[11]

  • The driver, not his wife, suggested the visit to the township
  • He and his wife were held in the car for 40 minutes, not 20, before he was thrown out

Ashok Hindocha, Anni's uncle and a spokesman for the Hindocha family, voiced his concerns about the investigation, asking South African police to investigate the murder further. He then challenged Shrien to return to South Africa, commenting that South African police should not rule anyone out of the investigation.[11]

On 25 November, Shrien's brother Preyen Dewani issued a statement saying that his brother was afraid that he would be wrongly blamed for the murder in order to save the reputation of South Africa, to protect tourism revenues.[11] Max Clifford later commented that Shrien was heavily sedated and being watched by doctors, was not a suspect in the murder, and had not been asked to return to South Africa. South African prosecutors later confirmed to local press that Shrien was not presently a suspect.[11]

On 19 February 2011, the Sunday Telegraph revealed evidence uncovered by Shrien's investigation team that had found a new witness to the murder. Not yet interviewed by the police, the female student, who lived less than 100 feet (30 m) from the location of where the VW Sharan taxi was found, stated that she noted at 08:00 that Anni Dewani's underwear was below her knees and her dress pulled up. Further, the post-mortem report stated that there were a number of dark bruises on Anni's legs, consistent with "finger mark" grips. Consistent with evidence from previous official reports of the positions of her hands, the article concluded that a possible outcome was that Anni was shot whilst trying to defend herself against a rape attack.[36]

BBC Panorama[edit]

An investigation by the BBC Panorama series in March 2012 reported that the original South African post-mortem report showed that the single bullet actually passed through Anni's left hand, followed by her chest and the wound on her neck was actually an exit wound. The report said the bullet left what it called "an irregular gunshot exit wound, " which suggested that there had been some sort of struggle.[37] A second Panorama programme in September 2013 revisited the case, and highlighted numerous inconsistencies between the physical evidence, witness testimony, and the South African prosecutors' purported version of events. In particular it noted that the forensic evidence was not properly collected, but what was pointed to was an accidental discharge in a struggle, rather than a deliberate killing. In addition, while Tongo's supposed cut of the fee for the killing was between only a half and third of his usual monthly salary, the two gunmen made substantially more from the theft of the Dewanis' belongings than the value of the "contract". The programme also showed CCTV evidence that supported the idea that what was being arranged between the taxi driver and the intermediary on behalf of Shrien was a surprise helicopter flight for Anni, this being what the money he changed on the morning of the murder was actually for.[38]

Conviction of Zola Tongo[edit]

On 3 December, Xolile Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe via their lawyers claimed that they were physically assaulted by police.[11] Shrien’s South African lawyer, Billy Gundelfinger, then withdrew from the pending case against the three arrested suspects,[39] and soon afterwards dropped Shrien as a client.[40]

On 7 December, appearing in the Western Cape High Court under a plea bargain arrangement, Zola Tongo said that Anni Dewani was "murdered at the instance of her husband," after Shrien Dewani had offered him £1,300 (15,000 rand) to have his wife killed. Max Clifford in a press release to British media, on behalf of Shrien and the Dewani family, stated that the claims made by Tongo have "absolutely no substance".[11] Outlining both the terms of Tongo's plea bargain and the state's case, state prosecutor Rodney de Kock advised Judge President John Hlophe that: "The alleged hijacking was in fact not a hijacking, but part of a plan of subterfuge which Shrien Dewani, the husband of the deceased, and the accused had designed to conceal the true facts, to wit: that the deceased was murdered at the instance of her husband."[41] De Kock confirmed that Tongo, who had been pre-booked by Shrien's personal assistant,[42] had driven the couple from Cape Town International Airport to the Cape Grace hotel on Friday, 12 November. After their arrival, Tongo alleged that he and Shrien had a conversation in the hotel lobby:[41]

The following day, the couple had relaxed by the hotel poolside, after which Shrien had suggested that the couple call their respective families. Tongo alleged in his written statement that while Anni called her family in Sweden, he had met with Shrien to complete arrangements for the kidnapping and murder that evening, and that Tongo had driven Shrien to a Bureau de Change to exchange US dollars into rand.[42] That evening, Tongo then explained in his written statement that he had picked up the couple from the hotel and driven them via some of the city's main sights to the meeting point with his friends. But as his friends were not at the agreed kidnap location, Tongo drove the couple onwards to a Sushi restaurant in Somerset West,[42] where he alleged that Shrien reminded him via text message that the killing had to take place that evening. After the couple finished their meal and had walked on the local beach, Tongo drove the couple back towards the kidnap meeting point. During this journey, Tongo claimed he sent Shrien a text message reminding him about the money, receiving a reply that it was "in an envelope in a pouch behind the passenger seat". After they returned to the meeting point, Mngeni and Qwabe were now in place, and hijacked the taxi.[41] For his part in the plot, Tongo alleges that he was to be paid R5,000 (£459) by Shrien, but told prosecutors that Shrien paid him only R1,000 (£92).[42]

Tongo was subsequently jailed for 18 years in Malmesbury prison,[43] and was expected to give evidence in the trial of Mngeni and Qwabe in 2011. Max Clifford, on behalf of Shrien and the Dewani family, again repeated that the claims of Tongo were "absolutely, 100 per cent ludicrous and deeply offensive".[41]

Trial of Xolile Mngeni and Mzwamadoda Qwabe[edit]

In pre-hearings on 18 February, at Wynberg Magistrates Court, the lawyer for Mzwamadoda Qwabe laid out the case for court's inability to give his client a fair trial. Thabo Nogemane said: "I am instructed that some unknown police officer assaulted him by means of a big torch. He was hit all over his body. He said the statement was a suggestion put to him by the police. They already had the allegations so they told him: 'Just sign here.' I wouldn't refer to it as a confession, just a statement." Mngeni's lawyer, Vusi Tshabalala, stated that his client had been suffocated with a plastic bag before signing a statement admitting his involvement in the killing, further suggesting police resorted to "irregular methods" because of the pressure they were under to solve the high-profile case.[44]

The trial was delayed, and on 13 June 2011, it was announced that Mngeni had had brain surgery to remove a tumour.[45]

Qwabe pleaded guilty to murder in August 2012 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.[2] Mngeni, 23, was convicted of murder on 19 November 2012, and sentenced to life in jail.[3] In July 2014, it was confirmed that a medical parole application had been made for Mngeni who was terminally ill with a brain tumour.[4][5] He was denied parole,[6] and died in jail on 18 October 2014.[7][46][47]

Extradition of Shrien Dewani[edit]

After he had surrendered himself at a Bristol police station, Shrien was arrested at 22.38 on 8 December 2010, by police officers from the Metropolitan Police's extradition unit. They were acting under a provisional arrest warrant issued that day after being provided by evidence from the South African authorities via the High Commission in London, issued on "suspicion of conspiring with others to murder Mrs Anni Dewani on 13 November".[39][48]

The Congress of South African Trade Unions issued a statement: "Let us hope that the swift and efficient way in which this case has been dealt with, and the fact that it is now becoming clear that it was planned by a non-South African, will help to restore the country's reputation." Friends of Shrien suggested that he was being "stitched up" as a suspect, claiming that the South African authorities were trying to make the murder more complex than a tourist hijacking. Max Clifford on behalf of Shrien and the Dewani family commented: "Let the South African police contact Shrien to explain and also reveal what evidence there is to substantiate these accusations from a man who had admitted his part in a murder."[39]

On the morning of 9 December, Shrien's British lawyer Clare Montgomery commented that "Shrien Dewani had no involvement in the death of his wife Anni."[49] Appearing that afternoon at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, Shrien told the court that he did not consent to being extradited.[28] Ben Watson, the British lawyer representing the South African government, disclosed that Shrien had withdrawn £1,000 in cash on his Mastercard before the murder,[50] including £800 on the evening of 13 November,.[51][52] Watson further alleged that Shrien claimed in conversation with the kidnappers that he had undertaken a contract killing before in South Africa, but Shrien's lawyer Montgomery denied he had ever been to South Africa before the honeymoon. The court was subsequently shown a copy of his passport, issued in 2006, confirming that Shrien had not been there in that time.[52] Shrien was then granted bail, posted at £250,000, lodged by his family. However, the Crown Prosecution Service acting on behalf of the South African authorities lodged an appeal, which meant that Shrien spent the night of 9 December in Wandsworth Prison.[28]

On the afternoon of 10 December, at a hearing at the High Court, Watson told Mr Justice Ouseley that CCTV footage from the Cape Grace hotel showed Shrien:[50]

  • Meeting Tongo twice in his taxi in the carpark of the Cape Grace on 12 November, the night before the killing, when Tongo claims Shrien asked him to hire a hitman to kill a woman. In later extradition papers submitted to the British courts, South African Police claimed that Preyan Dewani tried to obtain the video footage of the pair meeting.[53]
  • Having a series of meetings with Tongo inside the hotel, without his wife Anni, in the 24 hours before the killing[53]
  • Handing Tongo a package of cash on 16 November,[35] three days after the murder, having just previously been sitting beside his grieving father-in-law, Vinod Hindocha. Tongo is then seen entering the hotel toilets, where he counted the money.[35]

Watson further stated that South African police had written confessions from shop workers in a black market currency exchange, who had identified Shrien and Tongo, and that Shrien had changed US$1,500 with them. Watson stated that South African police believed that this was an additional sum on top of the already identified £1,000 Shrien had withdrawn from cash points: "The evidence suggests there was a second source of funds that Mr Dewani sought out that has, in our submission, all the hallmarks of an illegitimate transaction."[50] Shrien was released on bail to his family home, subject to: surrendering his passport; observe a double curfew, between 10 am and 2 pm and 10 pm and 2 am (i.e., day and night); electronic tagging; not apply for any international travel documents; report at his local police station every evening.[54]

Asked to comment on the case while on a visit to Limpopo province, South African national police commissioner, Bheki Cele, said: "One monkey came from London to kill his wife here. He thought we South Africans were stupid. Don't kill people here." Local legal commentators later suggested that while Cele's comments would not directly lead to defence calls for an unfair trial, the police could prejudice the case.[40] Helen Zille, the premier of Western Cape province, commented that Shrien must be extradited: "I can't believe there is such evil in the world. This evil appears to have been compounded by the abuse of South Africans."[55] Chloe Spelling, a South African national tourist who met the couple while they were staying at the Kruger national park, said in an interview with the News of the World that the couple had acted strangely, and not like a typical just-married couple.[56]

On New Year's Eve, five friends of Anni issued an open letter to Shrien via The Sun newspaper, in which they said: "You state that you are innocent of these allegations so please go back to Cape Town to prove to the South African police why they’ve got it wrong." The letter urged Shrien to avoid engaging in a media battle, and instead focus on what happened on 13–14 November.[57] The Dewani family set up a memorial fund for Anni Dewani, which they proposed would be used to build a school in her memory in India. However, on 8 January, Ashok Hindocha said in a press release that the Hindocha family had not been consulted over the plans, describing the project as a “PR campaign” to bolster Shrien’s image.[58]

On 17 January, family friend of the Dewanis Hasmukh Velji Shah appeared on BBC Inside Out West, to comment that Shrien had not ruled out returning to South Africa, if certain guarantees could be made, including local bail.[56][59] However, in the same programme, the South African Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe told the BBC, "As far as we are concerned, Mr. Dewani, if he comes before a competent court in South Africa, will receive a fair trial."[59] On 18 January, South African Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele, said detectives knew why Anni had been killed. Senior Investigating Officer Lt-Col Mike Barkhuizen had been sent to London to investigate both leads and further evidence, and would attend the scheduled pre-extradition hearing on 20 January, at which the South African Police would be willing to reveal the evidence should Shrien resist extradition.[60]


On 20 January, Shrien was due to appear before an extradition pre-hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court. However, he did not attend the hearing, and the court was told by his lawyer that Shrien had been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as suffering with both an acute stress disorder and a depressive adjustment disorder. Watson, for the South African authorities, told the court that Shrien was facing charges in South Africa of: conspiracy to murder; murder; kidnapping; robbery with aggravated circumstances; and obstruction of the administration of justice.[61] The full extradition hearing was adjourned by the Chief Magistrate to 8 February, at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court, for which an extension to Shrien's bail was granted.[62]

On 20 February, Shrien was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary by ambulance. He was released after two days of care; his family and legal team announced that he had had an adverse reaction to sleeping pills.[63] But in a subsequent legal hearing at Woolwich Crown Court on 24 February, Watson for the South African authorities claimed that Shrien had taken an overdose of 46 prescribed pills, including sleeping tablets such as diazepam.[64] Avon and Somerset Police's log stated that Dewani "wanted to take his life".[65] Watson asked for Shrien to be taken into custody immediately, both for his own safety and for assessment of his mental health. While admitting that his client was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression, Julian Knowles, representing Shrien, denied an intentional overdose, while a psychiatrist, Dr Paul Dedman, said there had not been a suicide attempt.[66] After assurances with regards to his health care from Shrien's family, which included treatment and care from the Priory Clinic, District Judge Howard Riddle ordered a second opinion on Shrien's mental health. He adjourned the hearing until 15 March, when Shrien's bail conditions would also be reviewed. It was also confirmed that the extradition case would be reviewed on 23 March at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.[67]

On the weekend of 9–10 April, Dewani became involved in an altercation with a fellow patient at the Priory Clinic in Bristol. Following an investigation by Avon and Somerset Police, during which his friends proposed that Dewani had suffered an adverse reaction to his medication, Dewani presented himself at a police station in central Bristol on 10 April, where he was arrested. Following a hearing at Bristol Magistrates Court on Monday 11 April, a district judge ruled he should be detained at the secure Cygnet Health Care hospital in Kewstoke, Somerset.[68]

Continuation of the extradition hearing[edit]

South Africa falls into the category 2 countries under the Extradition Act 2003. Following the initial stages of the extradition process, the court had to decide whether there was evidence which would be sufficient to make a case requiring an answer by the person if the proceedings were the summary trial of any information against him.[69] The mere suspicion, reasonably justified, by the South African prosecuting authorities would be sufficient.

After a series of delays due to Dewani's medical conditions, at an extradition hearing on 14 April, Judge Riddle extended Dewani's bail on the condition he remain either at Kewstoke Hospital or the Fromeside mental health unit at Blackberry Hill Hospital, but removed the need to report daily to a police station.[70] A full extradition hearing was scheduled for early May 2011.[71]

On 18 July 2011, Judge Riddle also agreed that Dewani was too ill to attend court, and so he was excused.[72] During the four-day hearing, the court was told that Dewani had said while held in hospital that he would kill himself if extradited.[73] On 11 August 2011, Judge Riddle agreed to the South African authorities' request to extradite Dewani, announcing in his ruling that the South African prosecutor had given assurances that Dewani would be held in a single cell, and be given full and proper treatment for his pre-diagnosed conditions. The judgement was subject to both appeal, and final approval by UK Home Secretary Theresa May.[74]

On 26 September 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May signed an order for Shrien Prakash Dewani's extradition to South Africa. However, Dewani's legal team appealed against the order, arguing that he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. On 30 March 2012, High Court judge Sir John Thomas said it would be unjust and oppressive to send Dewani back to South Africa in his present condition.[75]

On 24 July 2013, chief magistrate Howard Riddle ruled at Westminster Magistrates' Court that Shrien Dewani would be extradited to South Africa to face charges.[76] His legal team, who had 14 days to appeal, stated that after reading the full judgement, they intended to appeal against the decision.[77]

Extradition and Trial[edit]

On 2 March 2014, Shrien Dewani's attempt to appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed and he was thereby given 28 days to be extradited to South Africa. Dewani was extradited to South Africa on 7 April 2014 and made an initial appearance in the Western Cape High Court on 8 April 2014. By order of the presiding judge, he was then admitted to the Valkenberg Hospital in Cape Town for observation and treatment while his court case was postponed. On 15 August 2014, Shrien Dewani was found mentally fit to stand trial in South Africa, but he continued to be detained at Valkenberg Hospital.[78]

On 6 October 2014, Shrien Dewani's trial began. He was accused on five counts: conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice. He pleaded not guilty to all five accusations. In his opening statement he answered to allegations that questioned his sexuality, suggesting he has had physical relationships with male prostitutes. He confirmed these reports and acknowledged being bisexual, but maintains that he was "deeply in love with Anni".[79] The state could not call Mngeni as a witness as he died in jail on 18 October 2014.[46]

On Monday 8 December 2014, Shrien Dewani was acquitted. Judge Traverso ruled that the prosecution evidence was "far below the threshold" of what a reasonable court could convict on, and the evidence of the prosecution's main witness was "riddled with contradictions".[80]

On 25 April 2015, a judicial Conduct Committee described complaints about Judge Traverso's conduct in the trial as “frivolous” and lacking in substance.[81][82]

Media coverage[edit]

In South Africa, media coverage in the case was high from the discovery of the body. With an economy reliant on the influx of tourists, tour operators reported an immediate drop in bookings, as potential visitors were made aware of the country's high murder rate: on average, 46 per day. Secondly, concern was expressed at many levels that the killing would negate the goodwill resulting from the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[83] The assignment of the Police Hawks team and the early arrests, conviction and statement implicating Shrien Dewani only added further fuel to media coverage.[84][85][86]


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