Panorama expect us to believe a story of a helicopter booking, never before suggested in the three year history of this case, to explain Dewani’s conversion to cash of large sums of money in the two days preceding the murder.
On Panorama at 26min 20sec, Jeremy Vine says,
“Shrien Dewani now had 10,000 Rand. £900 in cash. So why might he have needed so much if it wasnt to pay Anni’s killers?”
“We’ve learnt that before he was a suspect, he’d told people he was planning to surprise Anni. His plan? A romantic helicopter trip the next day.”
Here we have a classic case of Jeremy Vine trying to present a new claim in dramatic fashion, but revealing very little factual information to support his claim and conveniently omitting to name his source. He builds up his point with, not one, but two curiosity-raising questions, then drops a dramatic claim reinforced with library footage of a flying helicopter which is kept on screen for 15 seconds.
This dramatic announcement technique is something Vine does several times in the programme, such as when he claims the honeymoon couple had been “trying for a baby”.
Furthermore, Jeremy Vine’s alleged helicopter trip is no ordinary helicopter trip. Oh no, it’s far more special. Its a “romantic” helicopter trip. As if that’s not enough, he also wheels out resident Panorama forensic expert Jim Fraser to give his input (of which more is said below).
Before we examine Jeremy Vine’s new claim about the alleged romantic helicopter trip that has emerged suddenly after 3 years, we will first take a look at the significance of the money in the car.
What was the money in the car for?
One of the key pieces of evidence against murder-accused Shrien Dewani is that he sent a text message to the illegal taxi operator Tongo, telling him that the money was in the rear pouch of the front passenger seat in Tongo’s car. The Dewani family have admitted there is a text message about money from Shrien Dewani to Tongo.
Dan Newling wrote the following in his Daily Mail newspaper article on 6 November 2011:
Question 5: Why were there text messages between Dewani and Tongo about the money while they were in the car, with Anni alongside them?
“While driving, either on the way to Somerset West (a large town near Strand) or on the way back, I sent a text message to Shrien Dewani not to forget about the money”, Tongo writes in the confession he signed three weeks after the murder.
He answered by way of a text message that “the money was in an envelope in a pouch behind the front passenger seat”.
Those close to Dewani, however, claim that the money (it is not clear how much) was not a down payment on a murder. Rather it was cash paid up front for the days Tongo had agreed to work as the couple’s chauffeur. The reason for the text-messaging secrecy, they argue, is that the money included payment for a special surprise gift for Anni.
In Tongo’s court testimony, he says this money was for the contract killers who would later that evening stage a carjacking to kidnap, rob and murder Anni as per Shrien Dewani’s instructions to him.
In 2012, Jeremy Vine himself reported an interview with a witness who says she saw two men getting out of Tongo’s car, one going back to take an envelope, and then both running away. Yet Vine says nothing of his interview in response to Fraser who says “There is no proof it was handed over to the gunmen”.
But looking at the Affidavit of Hendrikse, a SAPS officer who apprehended the murderers, he said Qwabe confessed that before he let Tongo out of the vehicle, Tongo had told them the R15 000 Dewani had promised for the hit was behind the front passenger seat. He testified that Qwabe and Mngeni then drove to Kuyasa in Khayelitsha where they let Shrien Dewani out of the vehicle as planned and agreed.
So the purpose of this money, which Dewani admits existed, is a key issue regarding his alleged involvement in the murder conspiracy.
Panorama’s “New Evidence”
For 3 years, the Dewanis have been unable to explain fully what the purpose of this money was or the actual amount, except for the vague reference in the newspaper above that it was given by murder accused Shrien to driver Tongo for advance tour guide fees for several days and included some “gift for Anni”. What the alleged gift was, how much it cost, who chose it, how and when they chose it, when and where it was to be bought from; all this vital detail has never been specified to substantiate the claim. The amount of the tour guide fees has not been specified.
So with the broadcast of Panorama, 3 years after the murder, we are now told by Jeremy Vine that the money was for a “romantic helicopter trip”. But he makes no mentions of the tour guide fees.
Where did this helicopter information come from?
BBC Panorama have claimed this was an independent expert analysis of a South African police docket. They have insisted they did not work with murder-accused Shrien Dewani, who is fighting extradition, nor his people, to produce the programme.
So when Jeremy Vine claims Dewani had “told people he was planning to surprise Anni”, exactly which people is he referring to? When exactly is Dewani supposed to have told these people? Who are these people – is it one person or several persons? What are the names of these people and why were they not named and interviewed on the programme if their information was deemed so critical to Shrien Dewani’s alibi?
Jim Fraser says on the programme: “There is this suggestion that it was for a helicopter trip”. Note how he conveniently doesn’t state, nor question, who the suggestion is from nor what evidence exists to support it nor when the suggestion was introduced. He just refers to “this suggestion”. “Who, what, when” – policemen at elementary school are taught to ask these questions in a murder case where a fugitive invents a new story. Fraser glosses over the issue completely.
Fraser goes on to claim “of course the police have not followed that process through”. In case it escaped him, the police have been trying to extradite Shrien Dewani to South Africa to answer questions for over 3 years now. How else does Fraser expect them to know anything about Dewani’s side of the story? Should the South African police perhaps rely on media comments by Max Clifford, Jeremy Vine and Dan Newling to ascertain Dewani’s answers? Fraser’s expectations are beyond belief.
Jeremy Vine also says the trip was for “the next day.” How does Vine know there was a booking for the next day and why doesn’t he share this crucial information with viewers? He provides no evidence of a booking or enquiry with any particular helicopter company or any witness to a booking.
If Dewani is alleged to have told people about a helicopter trip “before he was a suspect”, why didn’t his family simply tell this to the newspaper when asked about the money’s purpose back in November 2011, rather then give the vague answer they did? Why has this more specific claim only surfaced 3 years after the murder, as extradition for trial gets closer?
Jeremy Vine did not think to explore these obvious questions. Nor did forensic expert Jim Fraser.
Why are there no details to support the claim?
Panorama is very keen to hold every statement by the South African prosecution to strict questioning and forensic analysis, yet they themselves are happy to make vague claims; claims that assist murder suspect Shrien Dewani, without any supporting corroboratory information at all. They appear to have blindly accepted a significant claim from someone in this murder case without asking the most basic of questions.
Why has the “gift” turned into a “trip” after three years?
In November 2011, they claimed the money Dewani texted Tongo about was for Tongo to buy a “surprise gift” for Anni. The “gift” has suddenly turned into a “trip” and there is no mention of tour guide fees.
Why didn’t Panorama itself investigate who the helicopter company was?
The helicopter trip has no company name, no pilot name, no business address, no telephone number, no website, no contact person, no email, no booking confirmation, no booking time, no boarding location; absolutely nothing whatsoever to corroborate this newly introduced claim by Jeremy Vine that there was to be a “romantic helicopter trip” booking surprise for Anni.
Why did the money have to be left secretly in the car that night?
Tongo was with the Dewani couple till quite late that night, until just after 11pm. Why was it necessary for Shrien Dewani to leave cash for him then? Was he going to book and pay for this alleged helicopter trip in the middle of the night? Why could he not give the money to him in person the next day? More realistically, why couldn’t Shrien Dewani pay the helicopter company himself? Why couldn’t he have given Tongo the money directly in an envelope when Anni wasn’t looking; why did it have to be left in the car?
Would you entrust your life and that of your new wife by flying high up with a helicopter company that demanded payment in cash only? Dewani had credit cards; we know that he used them at the hotel.
Shrien Dewani and his team have had 3 years to come up with a credible explanation for the money; money they admitted existed. The belated suggestion, 3 years on, that this husband accused of murder gave a large amount of cash to a fare-touting unlicenced taxi driver for some helicopter trip appears to be nothing but a ploy in the absence of any supporting evidence.
This new helicopter claim seems to be, like the “never before seen CCTV” of which Vine constantly reminds us, “never before heard evidence”.
- 26:46 Jim Fraser:
“There is this suggestion that it was for a helicopter trip. And it may well be that it was for a helicopter trip but of course the police have not followed that process through.”
- 26:55 Jeremy Vine:
“CCTV from the police file revealed that as Tongo drops Mbolombo off at work, the 10,000 Rand cost of a helicopter flight is all the staff are talking about.”
- 27:28 Jeremy Vine:
“As Tongo and Mbolombo walk in, it becomes clear Mbolombo is central to what’s being discussed.”
- 28:08 Jim Fraser:
“They never stopped and paused, and thought about the fact that this conspiracy may have linked back to someone else, and they could have put these things to Shrien Dewani and asked him, why he went and got that money, and crucially, where it is now.”
Is this another example of BBC Panorama QUESTIONING THE ANSWER? James Fraser’s comments here refer to the money trail, with no demonstrable linkage to preceding material re helicopters. It is somewhat oddly phrased, referring to a mere theory as a “fact”. Fraser also raises the question about what happened to the money, stating “they could have put these things to Shrien Dewani…”. It is not clear how Fraser thinks they could have asked these questions of Shrien Dewani. It seems Fraser is unaware that Shrien left South Africa only four days after the murder, and nearly a week before Tongo’s confession first gave police a reason to investigate Shrien’s financial transactions.
An Interesting Anomaly
According to Panorama’s helicopter theory that has no supporting evidence, CCTV shows the front desk staff at the Colosseum discussing what Panorama claims is the 10,000 Rand cost of a helicopter flight, booked by “rich people”.
“Are the rich people the Dewanis?” asks Jeremy Vine (27:48).
It is a very desperate presumption that there were no other “rich” people staying in the many 4-star and 5-star hotels in Cape Town at the time, and assumes the numerous helicopter companies in Cape Town dont have any other clients. People are booking helicopter trips in Cape Town all the time and have been doing so for years. Why would the Dewanis be the only ones who could possibly have done so?
In any event, Shrien and Anni were not guests at the Colosseum hotel and they had no contact with the staff, including Mbolombo. So why would the staff at the Colosseum be discussing anything to do with Shrien or Anni?
We are assuming that Panorama’s interpretation of the unclear audio is not incorrect. If it is correct, then isn’t it just as likely that Mbolombo was overheard by his colleagues previously talking to Tongo about the fees a husband was going to pay to have a “client taken off the scene”, and any reference to a R10,000 helicopter trip was just Mbolombo trying to deflect suspicion by his co-workers?
If Dewani had put an envelope with R10,000 in the car, why didn’t he hand it over to the carjackers to negotiate the couple’s life? Dewani has told press interviewers that he gave the carjackers cash from his pocket and jewellery including a ring worth tens of thousands of pounds. Why did he not also give them the R10,000 cash envelope?
Also, the figures do not match up on closer examination. Jeremy Vine says Shrien Dewani had R10,000 on him. He then refers to a CCTV clip where the hotel workers are alleged by Panorama to be talking about “the R10,000 cost of helicopter trip”. Bingo! a straightforward match you would think? But no! Dewani’s family told Dan Newling in November 2011 that the money was for Tongo’s advance fees as a tour guide for the forthcoming days; only part of the money was for a “gift for Anni”. So now who do we believe? Who can we believe?
That’s the problem with lies; one lie requires a further lie to cover it up. And then another one. And another. The liar has to remember what lies he has told previously. Sooner or later, the lies trip over themselves. A trip that does not result in a surprise gift, but a hard 25 year jail sentence. And there’s nothing romantic in that.
Other than this highly dubious CCTV clip and Panorama’s own interpretation of it, the new claim of a “helicopter trip” has insufficient substantiating information to support it. Had this claim been made by the South African prosecution 3 years after the murder, one can guarantee that Jeremy Vine and his forensic experts would be demanding all the supporting facts. Where are yours Mr Vine?