Cape Town – Police forced a bouncer at Christopher Panayiotou’s nightclub to call his boss as part of a sting operation or face a heavy jail term, the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth heard on Tuesday.
“They said I must make Chris confess [to his wife’s murder] so that there can be something that can cause him to be arrested because I was given the money by him,” said State witness Luthando Siyoni.
“They said they want Chris, they said I must co-operate or they would make sure I am given 25 years.”
He was testifying in the trial of Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko on charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing Panayiotou’s wife Jayde on April 21 2015. They pleaded not guilty.
Siyoni allegedly hired the alleged hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, who died in a Port Elizabeth hospital in September.
On Tuesday, he described how police intimidated him and refused his numerous requests to have a lawyer present.
One escape route
He remembered being taken to investigating officer Kanna Swanepoel’s office, where he was shown photos of a woman on the floor, covered in blood.
Swanepoel asked him to phone Panayiotou and make him confess.
He realised that Swanepoel knew the people who had tortured him and ended up giving the same statement again.
“They said with respect to the version I gave them, I could be sentenced to 25 years, and that there was only one route for me to escape.”
He was told about being a section 204 witness the following day.
“I had a telephone placed in front of me and I was asked why I am defending Chris because this person killed his wife.”
It was the small phone found in his possession. The team told him they needed Panayiotou and Vumazonke’s fingerprints
He was asked to tell Panayiotou that the police knew about the money given to Vumazonke and that he wanted to get out of Port Elizabeth. He was to ask Panayiotou for R5 000.
“I then made a call to Chris but he said he was busy. He can’t speak to me; he is sitting with his family.”
Siyoni pleaded with him and said he was in trouble. Panayiotou apparently avoided his frequent calls.
At one point, someone else picked up his phone and said he was busy.
He was also told to send Panayiotou SMSes stating his name and that he needed to see him.
Stander asked why he did not object to being forced to make the calls.
“Because they told me if I can’t get Chris I will be taking his place.”
R80 000 payment
He said Swanepoel got up, grabbed him by the shoulder and said he had spoken better with the people who’d questioned him previously.
Siyoni then told him about the R80 000 payment and the agreement between Panayiotou and Vumazonke.
At one point he got hold of Panayiotou and was asked where he was.
The police told him not to say Port Elizabeth as they needed time and wanted to set up a meeting point.
Panayiotou apparently told him to go to the OK Grocer.
Siyoni told the court he could not go there because they had got information from an informer that his boss had “got people to kill me”.
Police told him what to tell Panayiotou and they met at a garage.
Siyoni had a recording device inside his vehicle and managed to convince Panayiotou over the phone to get inside.
The court did not hear details of what was discussed.
He then appeared in court the next day.
The trial continues.