Apart from the more regular sexual deviations, some rather exotic sexual proclivities have been aired in the Dewani trial in Cape Town, and more are sure to follow, the legal significance of which will need careful examination.
In a clever legal move, hoping to pre-empt prosecution evidence of Dewani’s sexual shenanigans, his legal team started off with a statement from him, containing careful admissions of bisexuality. It also tried in advance to explain away any otherwise suspicious contradictions or gaps in his version of events, by insisting that the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which he actually does not suffer from, is causing him memory problems.
Ironically, the first thing he seems to have forgotten is that a recent lengthy period of observation did not find him to be suffering from PTSD.
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Further, PTSD does not, typically, interfere with memory in the manner they’re suggesting. Quite the opposite, in fact. People with genuine PTSD have very clear memories, and are often painfully aware of the ugly details of their trauma. Yes, there may sometimes be specific gaps in the story, but they would be consistent, whereas his statement already shows a narrative of the events he claims occurred – without significant gaps.
If the state provides convincing evidence of his kinky sessions with Leopold Leisser, this provides a credible motive for the assassination of his wife – to escape from the sexual responsibilities of marriage and possible exposure of his dark secrets. Further, as he has hitherto consistently denied all such rumours, major doubts about the credibility of his statements must be raised.
He claims to be bisexual, but while there have many reports suggesting homosexuality, his heterosexual status is less evident. There have been no claims from any women that they have had sexual relationships with him, only a story of a previous relationship he had rushed into, and, after a few months, rushed out of. Earlier publicity (arranged by the celebrity publicist he hired, and now in jail himself) described Shrien as a "millionaire playboy", though we have yet to hear about any female playthings.
His recent statement claims he had low testosterone levels, low fertility, and possible impotence. While such problems are not rare, it is rather uncommon for a young man to have his fertility and hormone levels tested before becoming engaged. Yet he seems to have had no loss of sexual desire, and there have been no reports, thus far, of reduced potency when with Mr Leisser or others of that ilk. During the long gyrations of his attempts to evade standing trial, he grew a bushy beard, not usually a sign of very low testosterone levels.
What will need to be clarified is whether he was taking testosterone hormone treatments at the time of the murder, as this might potentially be related to higher levels of anger and aggression. Even though he is accused of having arranged the murder rather than actually committing the physical violence himself, this could still be relevant.
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Being homosexual, or bisexual, is, apart from potential relevance to a motive for wanting to silence his new wife, irrelevant. Sexual orientation has no bearing on one’s likelihood of committing murder. What may be more relevant is the specific nature of his desires.
What has been reported are not single, spontaneous, ill-considered events, but carefully planned and prepared sessions, including, apparently, arriving with paraphernalia, unlikely to be used for the first time. If Leisser testifies, which is likely, what will matter most will be the pillow talk – about Shrien feeling that he was forced into a straight marriage he dreaded, for fear of being “disowned” by his family, and feeling he needed to "find a way out", which implies long premeditation of murder.
The evidence of his part in the murder, including evidence from co-conspirators, could be very hard for the defence to refute. Although all we have heard from the defence thus far have been evasions, excuses and denials, there could be strong defence evidence not yet revealed, which could shed new light on the case. Thus far, there appear to be many holes in his stories, and a great many questions to be answered.
Penchant for masochism
Some have been puzzled by the apparent clumsiness and naivety of the crime. But the Leissner evidence could be relevant here. He could hardly have been more self-incriminating in setting up the sexual encounters, according to reports, including filling in a form describing his preferences, sending a photograph, providing his phone-numbers, even making hotel bookings in his own name. With his penchant for masochism, there could even be a degree of enjoyment in taking highly risky chances. Claims that one of his fetishes as “asiansubguy”, was for seeking racial abuse, and “no limits” in seeking humiliation, fits, too.
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An ominous feature in the case, already, is that the prosecution seems to have been bending over backwards to accommodate the defence in unnecessary ways. Refusing to allow the case to be broadcast on TV, and greatly restricting media access to the court, was unnecessary and unjustifiable. It is incomprehensible that this was described by the prosecution as being “in the interests of justice”.
Alarmingly, the Cape Director of Public Prosecutions is quoted as saying: “I have been appraised of the defence team's fear that any unregulated media access to their client may impact negatively on his health and result in a relapse...” How a man currently suffering from no mental illness could suffer a relapse of conditions he has claimed but which have not been proved in court, is far from clear. I can find no trace of any case in medical or legal history, where such a relapse has occurred in any significant case, let alone caused by the presence of TV cameras in court. Oscar’s dramatic performances in court were not a relapse of anything, and should not be considered relevant in this or any other case.
The Dewani trial begins
PTSD a real illness
How a murderer's mind works
Image: Brown leather whip from Shutterstock
Professor MA Simpson is Health24's CyberShrink. A South African psychiatrist, he qualified in medicine and in psychiatry in Britain. He has been a senior academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries. Read more of his columns.