Arrests were made in the days following the crime, with hijackers Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni, and hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo admitting to their involvement in a robbery/kidnapping that went fatally wrong. Facing life in prison, Qwabe and Mbolombo subsequently changed their stories to allege that the crime had instead been a premeditated "murder for hire" at the alleged behest of Anni's husband Shrien Dewani. Taxi driver Zola Tongo initially claimed to be an innocent victim of the carjacking but faced with the weight of evidence implicating him in the crime and in the wake of his fellow conspirators' allegations of a "murder for hire" plot, he too changed his story to allege that the husband was the instigator. Attractive plea bargains were offered to the conspirators in exchange for future testimony in legal proceedings related to the crime. The allegation of the husband's involvement made global headlines, with his supporters emphatically denying the accusations saying that it was "ludicrous" to suggest that he had solicited a hit on his wife within hours of arriving in Cape Town, from the first taxi driver he met.
Zola Tongo pleaded guilty to murder in December 2010 and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to murder in August 2012 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Xolile Mngeni was tried and convicted of murder in November 2012, and was sentenced to life in prison. Monde Mbolombo admitted involvement, but was offered immunity in exchange for testimony against the other conspirators alleged to have been involved in the crime.
South African prosecutors formulated charges against Anni's husband Shrien Dewani, based on the later discredited confessions of Tongo, Qwabe and Mbolombo, who were found to have committed perjury. Charges were brought on the basis that Anni had been the victim of a premeditated kidnapping and murder for hire, that was staged to appear as a random carjacking, at the alleged behest of her husband. Following a long legal battle, Shrien was extradited from the UK to South Africa to face trial. He was exonerated by a Western Cape High Court ruling in December 2014 that there was no credible evidence to support the allegations against him, nor to support the allegation that the crime was a premeditated murder for hire.
The Hindocha family was forced to leave Uganda in the early 1970s after the country's president Idi Amin expelled all Asians living there. They were granted residence in Sweden and settled in Mariestad, where their daughter Anni was born and raised. After studying engineering at the Gävle University College, Hindocha worked for Ericsson and lived in Stockholm.
Anni Hindocha met Shrien Dewani in London in 2009; they maintained a long-distance relationship until Hindocha moved to the UK in March 2010, where they became engaged in May. Although their relationship was sometimes troubled, the couple married at the Lake Powai resort outside Mumbai, India, on 29 October 2010. They were planning a civil ceremony for friends who could not attend the ceremony in India that would take place in the UK in 2011.
After landing at Cape Town International Airport on 7 November 2010, Dewani and her husband took a domestic flight and stayed for four nights at Kruger National Park. On 12 November, the couple returned to Cape Town International Airport, where they met and engaged taxi driver Zola Tongo to drive them to the five-star Cape Grace Hotel.
On 13 November, having retained Tongo as a tour guide, the couple were driven through the city in his VW Sharan into Gugulethu to drive past a BBQ restaurant (Mzolis) and on to dinner at Surfside Restaurant in Strand. After the couple dined, Tongo drove them back into Gugulethu. Shortly after turning off the main road, the vehicle was hijacked by two armed men. After driving a short distance, Tongo was ejected from the taxi. After driving for about a further 20 minutes and after having been robbed of his money, wallet, designer watch and mobile telephone, Shrien Dewani was also ejected from the vehicle. He encountered a person on the street, who assisted him in calling the police.
At 07:50 on 14 November, Anni Dewani was found dead inside the back of the VW Sharan in Lingelethu West. She had suffered a single gunshot wound to her neck inflicted by a copy of a TT pistol in 9mm calibre. Police later confirmed that Anni's Giorgio Armani wristwatch, a white-gold and diamond bracelet, her handbag and her BlackBerry mobile telephone were missing and assumed they were stolen. The estimated value of the items stolen during the armed robbery was R90,000.
Anni Dewani's body was taken to Cape Town hospital. The post-mortem examination revealed bruising on her inner leg, indicating she had been involved in a struggle. It also indicated that she had died from a single gunshot that passed through her hand and neck, severing an artery. There was no sign of sexual assault. On 17 November, 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. Her body was cremated in a traditional Hindu ceremony. Six 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, close to her home town; Mariestad, Sweden.
As a result of a palm print found on the abandoned taxi, Xolile Mngeni was arrested on Tuesday 16 November 2010, and made a videotaped confession in the presence of Captain Jonker of the South African Police Service. In his confession, Mngeni admitted involvement in a hijack, armed robbery and kidnapping operation. He described Shrien and Anni Dewani as victims and said Qwabe shot Anni Dewani during a struggle for her handbag.
Mziwamadoda Qwabe was arrested at around 01:00 on Thursday 18 November 2010 as a result of a tip-off from a trusted township informant. After initial denials, Qwabe was allowed to consult with arrested co-conspirators Mbolombo and Mngeni, and subsequently admitted involvement in the hijack, armed robbery and kidnapping operation. He described Shrien and Anni Dewani as victims. He changed his story during an interview recorded at 17:21 that day, saying the operation was a planned murder at the behest of Shrien Dewani.
Monde Mbolombo was arrested in the early hours of Thursday 18 November 2010 as a result of Qwabe providing his name to the police. After initially denying involvement, Mbolombo made a recorded confession at 16:30, admitting arranging a hijacking and armed robbery operation. The confession did not mention a planned murder or Shrien Dewani's involvement. The following day, Mbolombo changed his story, saying the operation was a planned murder at the behest of Shrien Dewani.
Zola Tongo reported the hijacking to a police station in Gugulethu after he was ejected from the vehicle, and made a statement saying he was an unknowing victim. On 17 November, Tongo gave a statement to Officer Hendrikse of the SAPS again saying he was an innocent victim. The following day, Tongo appointed attorney William De Grass. On Saturday 20 November, Tongo surrendered to police and said the operation was a planned murder staged to look like a random hijack, at the behest of Shrien Dewani.
In South Africa, media coverage of 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. Concern was expressed at many levels that the killing would negate the goodwill resulting from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The assignment of the Police Hawks team and the early arrests, conviction and statement implicating Shrien Dewani led to increased media coverage.
An episode of the BBC Panorama documentary television series in March 2012 reported that the original South African post-mortem report showed the single bullet that killed Anni Dewani had passed through her left hand, followed by her chest, and that the wound on her neck was an exit wound. The report said the bullet left "an irregular gunshot exit wound", which suggested there had been a struggle. A second Panorama programme broadcast 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 said the forensic evidence was not properly collected, and that it indicated 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 a half and a third of his usual monthly salary, the two gunmen made substantially more from the theft of the Dewanis' belongings than the value of the alleged contract. The programme also showed CCTV evidence that supported the idea that a surprise helicopter flight for Anni was being arranged between the taxi driver and the intermediary on behalf of Shrien; this being the reason for the money he changed on the morning of the murder.
Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Zola Tongo were offered reduced sentences in exchange for guilty pleas and the promise of truthful testimony against Shrien Dewani and in other criminal proceedings related to the crime. These plea deals were granted in accordance with Section 105A of the Criminal Procedure Act. Monde Mbolombo was granted full immunity from prosecution in exchange for his promise of truthful testimony against Shrien Dewani and in other criminal proceedings related to the crime. This plea deal was granted in accordance with Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
On 7 December 2010, Zola Tongo appeared in the Western Cape High Court; in accordance with his plea deal under Section 105A of the Criminal Procedure Act, he pleaded guilty to the armed robbery, kidnapping and murder of Anni Dewani—crimes he alleged were committed at the behest of Shrien Dewani.
According to the terms of his Section 105A agreement, Tongo was sentenced to 18 years in prison, contingent on him testifying truthfully against Dewani in any future legal proceedings.
Tongo was expected to give evidence in the trials of Mngeni and Qwabe in 2011 and 2012. Qwabe avoided trial by pleading guilty pursuant to a Section 105A plea deal. Tongo was not called as a witness at Mngeni’s trial in 2012.
As of January 2011, Tongo was serving his 18-year sentence in Malmesbury Prison, and will be eligible for release in 2019.
In pre-trial hearings on 18 February at Wynberg Magistrates Court, counsel for Mziwamadoda Qwabe said the court was unable to provide a fair trial for his client. 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."
According to the terms of his Section 105A agreement, Qwabe was sentenced to 25 years in prison, contingent on him testifying truthfully in future legal proceedings relating to the case.
Qwabe will be eligible for release in 2027.
In 2011, Mngeni's lawyer Vusi Tshabalala said 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. The start of Mngeni's trial was delayed, and on 13 June 2011 it was announced that he had undergone brain surgery to remove a tumour.
Despite having admitted to his role in the robbery and kidnapping of Anni Dewani in a videotaped confession, Mngeni pleaded not guilty at the start of his 2012 trial, saying he had an alibi and was not at the scene of the crime.
Mngeni’s lawyers said his initial confession should be ruled inadmissible as evidence because it was allegedly extracted using torture. Justice Robert Henney ruled against Mngeni and said that the confession was admissible.
Before testifying in the Mngeni trial, key witness Monde Mbolombo read out a prepared statement confessing to lying in his two previous affidavits and promised to tell the truth when testifying.
On 19 November 2012, Mngeni was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in jail. The court accepted Mziwamadoda Qwabe's and Monde Mbolombo's version of events that said the crime was a contract killing. Mngeni was ruled to have been the person who shot Anni Dewani. The court's findings were superseded by the judgement in the later trial of Shrien Dewani, in which the court found the earlier determinations had been made on the basis of flawed forensic evidence, and perjury of the two key witnesses Qwabe and Mbolombo
In July 2014, it was confirmed that a medical parole application had been made for Mngeni, who was terminally ill with a brain tumour. He was denied parole and died in jail at the Goodwood Centre of Excellence on 18 October 2014.
After a long legal battle, Shrien Dewani was extradited from the United Kingdom to South Africa on 7 April 2014. Upon arrival he was arrested, charged and ordered to stand trial for allegedly arranging the murder of his wife. He was charged with five offences: conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and obstructing the administration of justice. He pleaded not guilty to all five charges.
Dewani's trial began on 6 October 2014. Under cross examination, the key witnesses who alleged Dewani's involvement—Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Monde Mbolombo—contradicted their previous statements and each other on most of the key elements of the "murder for hire" story. Tongo and Mbolombo were found to have fabricated calls and text messages that did not exist and refused to identify a fifth conspirator referred to in taped recordings. Qwabe refused to explain to the court why Anni was driven into a residential area.
On 24 November 2014, after the close of the prosecution's case, Dewani's counsel argued for the case to be dismissed under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act, citing a lack of any credible evidence linking his client to the crime. On 8 December, the application for dismissal under Section 174 was granted by the Honourable Judge Traverso, and Dewani was acquitted and exonerated of all involvement with the crimes. In her judgement, Traverso ruled there was no credible evidence linking Shrien Dewani to the crime and explained her ruling by saying:
Mr. Tongo, who was the only witness who could link the accused to this conspiracy, gave evidence to the court which is so improbable and contains so many mistakes, lies and inconsistencies that one simply cannot know where the lies end and the truth begins. I accept that at this stage of the proceedings the credibility of a witness plays a limited role. But, in my view, the evidence of these witnesses is so replete with fundamental contradictions on the key components of the State case that I can all but ignore it. In making this finding, I take into account that all three witnesses, Mr. Tongo, Mr. Mbolombo and Mr. Qwabe are intelligent people, and therefore more than capable of attempting to twist their version to implicate the accused.
The court ruled that Xolile Mngeni could not have been the person who shot Anni, overturning the finding of Justice Henney in the Mngeni trial, and that some of the key conclusions reached in the 2012 Mngeni trial were erroneous, being based on flawed forensic evidence and the admitted lies of Monde Mbolombo. The court also ruled that Monde Mbolombo had again committed perjury and would not be granted indemnity from prosecution. Judge Traverso said, "Before Mr. Mbolombo proceeded with his evidence, he delivered a pre-prepared speech which, from the record, appears to be virtually identical to a similarly emotive speech which he gave the court in the Mngeni trial, before blatantly lying about material aspects.".
Monde Mbolombo has not been prosecuted or punished for his self-confessed role in the crime, nor for his self-confessed perjury whilst testifying. On 19 November 2015 the Director of Public Prosecutions decided Mbolombo could not be prosecuted.
On 22 January 2015, a complaint was lodged by the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN), alleging judicial bias and prejudiced behaviour of Judge Traverso in the trial of Shrien Dewani. On 25 April that year, a Judicial Conduct Committee dismissed the HETN's complaint, describing it as "frivolous" and lacking in substance.
The National Prosecuting Authority declined to appeal the judgement or lodge any complaint against Judge Traverso.
After Shrien Dewani's exoneration in December 2014, Anni Dewani's family asked for a coroner's court in the UK to reopen the inquest into her death and to compel Dewani to publicly answer questions. On 9 September 2015, at Brent Coroner's Court in North London, Coroner Andrew Walker said he did not consider that a full inquest was appropriate because a criminal trial had been conducted in South Africa. On 9 October, Walker confirmed there was insufficient cause to resume an inquest. He told the court he was prohibited from reaching a conclusion that was inconsistent with the findings of the South African courts.