British millionaire Shrien Dewani on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering his young bride while on honeymoon in Cape Town as his long-awaited trial got under way.
Speaking from the dock, Mr. Dewani, dressed in a dark suit and ties, glanced nervously around court and said he was “not guilty” of charges of murder, kidnapping and obstructing justice.
The prosecution is expected to argue that Mr. Dewani is a gay man who was so desperate to escape an arranged marriage that he hired hitmen to kill his bride on their Cape Town honeymoon.
In a statement read by defence layer Francois van Zyl, Mr. Dewani admitted he was bisexual, but said he was “instantly physically attracted” to Swedish-born bride Anni (nee Hindocha), who was shot dead in November 2010, aged 28.
Both Mr. Dewani and his wife are of Indian origin, from what news reports have described as devout Hindu families.
“I’ve had sexual interaction with both males and females. I consider myself bisexual,” Mr. Dewani’s statement said.
He finally appeared in court after losing a three-year extradition fight in Britain and was ruled mentally fit to stand trial.
He claims that he and his bride were hijacked at gunpoint as they drove through Cape Town’s impoverished Gugulethu township in a taxi.
Mr. Dewani escaped unharmed, but his wife’s body was found in the abandoned car the next day.
Local media have reported that one of the main witnesses for the prosecution will be a sado-masochism “master” from Britain who will claim that Dewani paid him for sex.
Gay prostitute Leopold Leisser is said to have claimed in a statement to British police that Dewani had told him he was getting married to a “lovely girl”, but he needed “to find a way out of it”.
The three South Africans have been tried and convicted and are serving jail sentences of between 18 years and life for their role in Anni Dewani’s death.
Anni’s family said it has been “a period of torture” since her death.
“All I ask for is the full story and justice,” Anni’s father Vinod
Hindocha said in Cape Town on Sunday.
The trial is set to run into December.