Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PREYEN DEWANI;' brother begged, dont kill my wife'

THE husband of a bride murdered by robbers just days into their honeymoon in South Africa begged for her life and struggled with them before being thrown from a moving taxi, his family have revealed.

Shrien Dewani offered the car- jackers everything they had, including their engagement and wedding rings, jewellery, cash and mobile phones.

But the two men pushed him from the people carrier before driving off and later shooting his wife, Anni Dewani, three times.

The couple were just four days into their honeymoon after marrying in a stunning Hindu ceremony three weeks ago in India.

Now instead of beginning their life together in their plush Westbury-on-Trym home, the multi-millionaire businessman will this week bring his wife's body home for her funeral.

Speaking exclusively to the Evening Post yesterday, Mr Dewani's brother Preyen said the couple had decided to go to South Africa because the name combined their two initials – "S" and "A".

He said Mr Dewani, 30, and Anni, 28, had not been travelling through the country's impoverished and crime-ridden townships at the time, but were in a chauffeur-driven Volkswagen Sharan on the main road back to Cape Town after an evening meal in Somerset West, an upmarket suburb in the wine regions 50km east of the city.

Preyen, who with Mr Dewani is a director of PSP Healthcare, which runs ten nursing and care homes for the elderly in the South West and South Wales, said his brother was a resilient man who was turning to his faith to help him with his grief.

He also paid tribute to Anni, saying: "She was incredibly beautiful, a smiling, bubbly personality who was excited and keen to embark on life as Mrs Dewani.

"Life was about to start for them. They were excited and it was the time of their lives, like any young couple going on honeymoon."

Mr Dewani, a former pupil of Bristol Grammar School, and Anni, who was Swedish and worked for mobile phone company Ericsson, had been together for about a year.

After their Mumbai wedding they had flown back to Bristol to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali with their family.

They left for South Africa on Tuesday and were four days into their honeymoon when the robbery occurred on Saturday.

Preyen, 32, said: "They were on their way back to their hotel at about 10pm when a car in front of them forced them to slow down and stop.

"Two men brandishing shotguns jumped into the car and forced the driver to drive off at speed.

"After about ten minutes they threw the driver out, and after driving on they threatened the two of them and said they were going to split them up.

"Shrien offered them everything they had, their wedding and engagement rings, their watches, cash and mobile phones. The robbers took these items and then told Shrien to leave the vehicle.

"He refused, and after a struggle they pushed him out of the vehicle as it was driving along, and threatened to shoot Anni if he did not leave."

After being dropped off in Harare, an area of the Khayelitsha township, Mr Dewani flagged down a passing motorist and called the police.

A search failed to find the car, so after going back to the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town police immediately scrambled a force helicopter and brought in every available officer to help find Anni.

The first the family heard was when a frantic Mr Dewani phoned from the hotel to explain what had happened.

They were updated on events throughout the night, but at 7am on Sunday police found Anni's body in the rear of the car, which had been dumped in another township, Lingelethu West.

Preyen said: "The first officer on the scene contacted me and informed me that Anni had been shot three times at point blank range. There were no signs of a struggle or any other interference."

Mr Dewani, who is being helped in South Africa by his father, Prakash, and Anni's father, Vinod Hindocha, is expected to return to Bristol in the next few days.

A postmortem examination was completed yesterday, and Anni's body will be flown back to the UK for a funeral and memorial service later this week.

It had been widely reported that the couple had taken a diversion to visit the nightlife of the local townships, which are generally considered no-go areas for tourists.

But Preyen refuted the rumours, and said they had merely been driving along the main road when they were stopped.

He added that his brother had so far been coping with his grief.

He said: "He is very resilient and has tremendous strength of character.

"He has always been strong, with a firm belief in the Hindu faith.

"He was the general secretary of the National Hindu Students Forum and after university continued to assist the younger generation in maintaining their culture and religion.

"This now serves to help him in his own hour of grief."

More than 200 friends and family from all over the UK and members of Bristol's Hindu community gathered at Mr Dewani's home on Sunday evening to pay their respects to Anni and sing prayers and hymns at a memorial service, and a shrine has been set up in her honour.

A former teacher at Bristol Grammar School described Mr Dewani as "an outstanding young man, immensely talented, very diplomatic and a natural leader".

He studied for a degree in economics and finance at Manchester, before working as a chartered accountant for the consultancy firm Deloitte in London.

Five years ago he and Preyen joined forces to expand the family business, and with their father now run PSP Healthcare, a £15-million business which runs award-winning nursing and care homes and luxury care centres for elderly people and those with dementia, employing almost 500 people and caring for a similar number.

Police in South Africa are still hunting for Anni's killers, and ministers in the country are appealing for people to come forward with information.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the situation and are providing consular assistance to a British national who is involved, and their family."

Preyen said: "We would like to express our sincere thanks to all of the South African police, the authorities, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cape Grace hotel's manager Nigel Pace and his team for all their assistance and support.

"We now humbly request that we be given some time and privacy to come to terms with this tragedy without further intrusion."

Friends have set up a Facebook tribute page called Memory of Anni Dewani which reads: "You are always in our hearts. We will remember you forever".

More than 1,200 people have joined the online group.

One member, Rajen Shah, wrote: "Having been at your wedding, what has happened is unimaginable and still can't believe you are not present amongst us.

"Our deepest sympathies to Shrien and every member of both families for the great loss.

"Little Keshvi called you a princess and you truly were a princess. Beautiful memories will always be with us."

Another friend, Shivani Pala, posted: "Dearest Anni.

"I had the privilege of putting a payal on your foot at one of your wedding functions. You looked beautiful on that day and I remember the way you smiled at me and what you said!

"The wedding was perfect and both families hosted us so well, which is reflective of what wonderful people you all are."

Comment: A couple of things why does PREYEN say Anni was shot three times and why does he tell the story as though he were there himself ?