There are two Shrien Dewanis. Clearly. In the red corner stands a callous millionaire accused of paying for the murder of his wife, Anni, in Cape Town on November 13. In the blue corner we find a bereaved husband slumped in mourning, awaiting his extradition hearing in Bristol on January 20.
The battle between the two camps blazed across the pages of the newspapers again this week, and with celebrity publicist Max Clifford enlisted by Dewani, no ceasefire is expected.
Clifford and the Dewani family say Shrien, 30, is “a broken man” at home in the village of Westbury-on-Trym on bail of £250 000 (R2.6m).
Clifford assured the world: “Shrien has more chance of walking on the moon than getting a fair trial in Cape Town. It’s becoming difficult to keep up with the lies coming out of South Africa. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be a farce.”
South African police chief Bheki Cele’s description of Dewani as “a monkey” and the background of the judge involved in the case, John Hlophe, are given as valid reasons to block extradition.
A quick look at www.maxclifford.com offers pictures of Max with everybody from OJ Simpson and boxer Frank Bruno to reality television mogul Simon Cowell.
The site claims Clifford has been “protecting and promoting a wide variety of clients for 40 years”.
He is backed by Shrien’s first cousin, Akta Raja, a lawyer who wrote a moving piece in London’s Daily Telegraph this week, asking us to “Imagine being Shrien Dewani. Just imagine.”
She concluded: “If Shrien Dewani is extradited to South Africa, it is our moral duty to ensure that he is treated humanely, and as an innocent man. But the case should never get that far, of course.”
And by the end of the week, we were told by a “family member” that a fund had been set up by both families to build a school in India as a tribute to tragic Anni, killed on her honeymoon after Shrien had been released in an extremely unusual carjacking in Gugulethu.
Sure enough, the relative quoted one of the messages on the site as saying: “People are saying ‘I don’t know you, I don’t know the family, but I believe you’.”
So rests the case for the defence.
Though, as Clifford said last week: “I fully expect Shrien Dewani to be blamed for South Africa being knocked out of the World Cup soon.”
For the prosecution, The Sun on Thursday produced the final SMSes sent by Anni to a friend in Mumbai five days before her murder.
This is how they look.
The friend: “How r u? How r things?'
Anni: “im ok, crying has become my new hobby”
The friend: “Hmm”
Anni: “Hope it will be better one day”
The same friend, who is said to be 25 but remains unnamed, recalls a further incident where Anni threw her engagement ring at Shrien days before their lavish Mumbai wedding.
She said: “They argued in the hotel during the morning. Later Anni said she was relieved it was over as it was all too stressful. She said they were just not compatible.
“Anni moved out of the hotel for the night, but next day Shrien sent round a car and they made up.”
Clifford and Dewani insist the relationship was serene. They shrug off the fact that Shrien pretended to be a travel specialist to get a discount on the game park resort where they spent the first days of their honeymoon.
They deny Anni was unhappy on the flight to Johannesburg.
They haven’t commented on the story suggesting Shrien organised a refund of Anni’s unused return flight days after her death.
They say the CCTV footage of Dewani giving driver-turned-accuser Xola Tongo money was a payment for services.
They offer instead footage of the delightful first dance at their wedding, the murmured words of love.
They describe the Mirror’s suggestion of an alleged affair with his HR director as “unfounded”, and the debts run up by his care home company as “normal”. When a German rent boy claimed in The Sun to have had sex with Shrien three times last year, they used words like “ludicrous” and “ridiculous”.
The last word, perhaps, should go to yet another unnamed Dewani family member quoted this week: “Shrien is torn apart by it all. The police case against him is flimsy. He has been robbed of the love of his life and is grieving, and now he must deal with all these ridiculous allegations.”
So who do you believe? The angry red Shrien Dewani, or the distinctly blue one?
Given that the extradition hearing on January 20 is likely to be subject to a long follow-up of appeal hearings, you may have some time to decide. - Weekend Argus