British murder accused Shrien Dewani pretended to be a travel consultant to get a 90% discount at the luxury private safari lodge where he took his bride, Anni, on honeymoon just days before she was shot dead – allegedly at his instigation.
He conned the Chitwa Chitwa lodge at Sabi Sand Game Reserve into charging him R3000 for three nights, instead of the R36000 going rate.
Dewani was given the special deal after portraying himself as a “travel consultant” when making the booking five days before checking in on November 9.
And guests have also revealed how a miserable Anni had no idea she was going on honeymoon in South Africa and had been ill-prepared as a result. They said she showed little interest in the safari during their stay and was reluctant to go on game drives, was afraid of insects and sat at the bar alone drinking orange juice.
This appears to be at odds with Dewani’s widely reported claims that she initiated the drive to Guguletu in Cape Town – where she was murdered around November 13 – because she wanted to get a glimpse of “the real Africa”.
He now stands accused of bringing Anni to South Africa to be killed by hit men whom he allegedly paid R15000.
Dewani co-owns PSP Healthcare, which operates nursing homes in the UK. The firm made the lodge reservation in a series of telephone calls and e-mails. At no time was mention made that he was on honeymoon.
Instead, Dewani portrayed himself as “an upmarket travel consultant” who wanted to check if the lodge would be suitable for his clients.
Giving travel agents reduced rates or allowing them to stay free is standard practice in the tourism industry to lure new business.
When approached for comment yesterday, Dewani’s publicist, Max Clifford, initially said: “My client has nothing to do with the travel industry. He never had any business interest in the travel industry.”
On learning of the hefty discount, an agitated Clifford said: “We are getting used to the lies coming out of SA on a daily basis. The lodge must enjoy the publicity they are getting out of this story.”
Comment: Alvita Raghavjee works for a travel agency. Alvita just happens to be a very good friend of Shenri.
The murder case, which has gripped South Africa and Britain, is taking dramatic twists and turns.
Dewani left Wandsworth Prison in London at 5.30pm on Friday afternoon, after being granted bail of R2.7-million, in a black BMW X5, which swept him through the iron gates at his home in Bristol, southwestern England.
But, within hours of his arrival, new developments unfolded, including details of the case being built by police in SA, as well as possible links to another 2007 hijacking and murder case in the country.
Early yesterday morning, lights could be seen on in the Dewani house in the Bristol suburb of Westbury-on-Trym, where a large group of photographers and TV crews continue to camp.
Photographers also kept vigil at the local police station where Dewani must report every day until his extradition hearing in a London court on January 20.
The Hindu temple in Bristol’s Redfield suburb, on the other side of town, where Dewani is a regular worshipper, stood empty yesterday morning.
Taxi driver Zola Tongo on Tuesday implicated Dewani in Anni’s murder. Other evidence in the case includes:
Potentially damning sms messages reportedly between Dewani and Tongo;
A Makarov 9mm pistol with four bullets, plus one empty shell casing, which matches the bullet fired into Anni’s neck;
Electronic signatures that can be traced to the cellphones of all the suspects – including Dewani – showing their location at different times;
Three sets of seized CCTV footage showing two separate meetings at the luxury Cape Grace Hotel between Dewani and Tongo, as well as footage near the Surfside restaurant in the Strand where the couple had their last meal at a table with ocean views of Simon’s Town and Gordon’s Bay; and
Fingerprints found in Tongo’s vehicle, a VW Sharan, in which Anni was shot
National police commissioner General Bheki Cele confirmed yesterday that police were probing links between the 2007 killing of an Eastern Cape doctor and Anni’s murder.
Dr Pox Raghavjee was killed three years ago in similar circumstances. His widow, Heath-er Raghavjee, went to Cape Town with a close friend of Dewani’s father, Prakash – a magistrate – to comfort Dewani after Anni died.
Tongo claimed in his plea bargain agreement that Dewani had mentioned his involvement in a previous fake hijacking in SA.
Pox Raghavjee’s half-naked body was found with two bullet wounds on a dirt road next to his green Mercedes-Benz near Bhisho Stadium in 2007.
He was a general practitioner in King William’s Town.
On Monday morning, October 29 2007, he left for the surgery, but never arrived, and his wife reported him missing. Police later confirmed he was killed by a bullet to the head. All his belongings, including R500 in his wallet, his watch and cellphone were found at the scene.
King William’s Town police spokesman Thozama Solani said the case was still open and there was a R50000 reward for information.
Dr Harry Ramjee, a relative of the Raghavjee family, said they had met Prakash Dewani in King William’s Town, “but not (Shrien). His parents were here.”
Chitwa Chitwa owner Maria Brink declined to discuss details of the lodge’s clients.
But guests who met the Dewanis at the lodge described Anni as “a very fragile girl, very delicate”.
One said the 28-year-old part-time model from Sweden declined to go on a game drive because her feet were swollen after the flight from London.
The Dewanis, who held a gala wedding ceremony in Mumbai on October 29, struck guests and staff at the lodge as “a very sweet couple who looked very happy together”.
Briton Angela Bartlett was quoted in UK newspapers as saying Anni did not have the right clothes for a game reserve visit. Anni told her she had learnt at the last minute from her mother-in-law that she was going on honeymoon to SA.
A photograph taken with Bartlett’s camera shows the couple laughing and smiling with half a dozen other guests around a dinner table romantically lit with paraffin lamps.
Chitwa house, an exclusive retreat with two suites sleeping four guests, costs R35000 a night during high season.
From Chitwa Chitwa, the couple went to Cape Town International Airport on November 12 where Dewani hired chauffeur Tonga to take them to the Cape Grace Hotel.
Within minutes Tongo claims Dewani was asking for a hitman.
Tonga claimed in court that, within minutes of arriving at the hotel, Dewani asked him to arrange Comment: Shreni Dewani when asked by police for the taxi registration number said he had to phone his family in London for it...(although I find this odd, why would Dewani think to take the reg.no of the taxi ? I know I would not have done this ...so something not quite right there).... The taxi may have been booked from London possibly through a travel agency. This leaves an option and god forbid what I am thinking , the hit was pre arranged in London.
The next day, he drove them to Guguletu, where two men staged a fake hijacking – releasing Tongo and Dewani unharmed – and shot Anni dead.
SA has launched extradition proceedings against Dewani, who returned to the UK three days after the murder.
He has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence – with questions even arising this week over his sexuality – and accused Tongo of lying to save his own skin.
Comment : The woman he claimed to love and searched the World for, yet he had no interest in getting the bastards who killed her. I know my husband would have stayed in SA and tried to rip them from limb to limb.
Shreni said on the night of the killing they were cuddled together in the back of the taxi looking at the Safari photographs from their trip. It was late, so it would have been dark, would they have been looking at photographs at this point? Where are these photographs ? or was Anni so unhappy no photographs were taken, if so clever way for Shreni to imply they were stolen. Had they been hijacked while looking at pictures they would have been strewn all over the floor in the taxi...no reports of photographs having been found.