Port Elizabeth – In an emotional address in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Friday, Jayde Panayiotou’s sister Toni Inggs described how the family’s world had fallen apart, and how she would never be able to forgive Christopher Panayiotou for having her sister murdered.
Inggs read a letter that she had prepared earlier, her hands shaking, after being called to the stand by prosecutor Marius Stander.
This was part of the prosecution’s argument for aggravating sentencing after Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko were found guilty of the murder earlier this month.
Earlier, defence advocate Terry Price asked for the matter to be postponed, saying he was not ready to proceed with his argument for mitigation of sentencing, as he needed to read Judge Dayalin Chetty’s 109-page judgment thoroughly.
He also asked for leave to obtain a pre-sentencing report.
Chetty, however, said he did not require the report and allowed Stander to proceed with his argument.
‘The least you can do is to look at me’
Addressing part of her speech to Panayiotou and his co-accused, Inggs called him out for refusing to look at her.
“The least you can do is to look at me,” she said to him, as the public gallery applauded.
Throughout proceedings, Panayiotou stared straight in front of him, never making eye contact with Inggs.
She said many people had called for the death penalty to be brought back, but said she did not wish the death penalty on them.
“You do not deserve the peacefulness that death has to offer,” she said.
Inggs said she didn’t believe that the accused should be allowed to walk free.
“After all, if [Sizwe] Vumazonke (the hitman who died before the trial began), a known criminal, hadn’t been released, Jayde may still have been alive today.”
Family treated like the enemy by defence
Inggs addressed part of her speech directly to Price, saying that from day one her family had been treated as the enemy.
“Attending court has been a dreadful, horrific experience. I never imagined that anything could make our situation worse than it already was, but being here is absolutely one of the worst experiences of my life.
“My family and I were repeatedly disrespected by members of the defence team. Quite honestly, I am appalled by your actions and what you have contributed to my family’s suffering emotionally,” she said.
“We did not ask for this, we did not ask to be here, and we certainly did not deserve this treatment. No victim’s family deserves this treatment.
“I understand that this is your job, but understand this – these are real people’s lives that you are dealing with and it seems you have all forgotten that an innocent person was murdered,” she said.
Inggs also thanked Peter Daubermann, who represented Nenembe and Sibeko, for always being neutral: “You could teach a lot of people about respect,” she said.
During his cross-examination of Inggs, Price said he was going to ignore everything she had said about him.
“From my point of view, I think it is horrible what happened to her,” he said.
After Inggs was excused, court was adjourned. The matter reconvenes next week on Thursday, November 23, for the defence to argue in mitigation of sentence.
Here is Toni Inggs’ full speech:
A year ago when I decided I was going to request the opportunity to address the accused in court, the letter I had in mind was very different to the one I will be reading here today.
I thought I would stand here, pointing at the three of you, laughing as I tell you how you have all lost. But that would be an absolute lie.
So I stand here today with a broken heart, a damaged life and immense anger, you have all won.
In fact, you won this selfish game the day you all agreed to murder Jayde. As usual, Chrissy gets exactly what he wanted.
As much as I respect and appreciate the judge’s ruling, no sentence will ever be enough, and no sentence will ever put the damaged pieces of our life back together.
I know I speak for my mom and dad when I say that the three of you have made us feel every emotion all at once but also at times, you have made us feel absolutely nothing at all.
To stand here and say that I hate you, the three of you, would truly be an understatement of how I feel about you and what you have done to my family.
Your selfish actions have changed my life so much and each day I look at Anthony [her Fiancé] and I am overwhelmed with gratitude, because he is nothing like you, Christopher.
Jayde deserved so much more than the material things you gave her. She begged for your love and attention, and this is how you repaid her.
You haven’t just taken away a beautiful innocent woman, teacher, carer, daughter, and in my case a sister. You have taken away so much more than that.
In the last two and a half years we have felt isolation and true fear, experienced overwhelming anxiety and depression. and to be clear, Mr Price, this is a diagnosis, not a thumbsuck.
I used to be a brave, independent young woman, I am angry that you have changed me.
I constantly replay different situations in my mind of how you will send people after me next. I now memorise number plates, people’s faces and colours of cars whenever I am driving alone. I have lost my faith and trust nobody.
I feel isolated in a group of people and fake a smile more often than you could imagine. Hiding my feelings and changing my moods has become easy and maybe one day I will learn to control my guilt.
I have watched my mom and dad fall apart over and over and over again because of you and all I can do is stand back and watch, I have never felt more helpless in my life.
How do you comfort your mom and dad when their daughter has been murdered, execution style, at the hands of her husband, who is supposed to protect her.
You have ripped Jayde away from us so selfishly and to put a price on someone’s life is the most cowardly thing I could ever imagine.
Attending court has been a dreadful, horrific experience. I never imagined that anything could make our situation worse than it already was, but being here is absolutely one of the worst experiences of my life.
From day one my family and I were treated like the enemy. My family and I were repeatedly disrespected by members of the defence team.
Quite honestly, I am appalled by your actions and what you have contributed to my family’s suffering emotionally.
We did not ask for this, we did not ask to be here, and we certainly did not deserve this treatment. No victim’s family deserves this treatment.
I understand that this is your job, but understand this, these are real people’s lives that you are dealing with and it seems you have all forgotten that an innocent person was murdered.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Daubermann [legal representative for Nenembe and Sibeko] for always being neutral, you could teach a lot of people about respect.
Nothing I ever do or say will change this experience and the way it has affected my mom and dad. Nothing will bring them comfort. Nothing I say or do will ever bring my mom and dad back. We are changed forever and we, as a family, will never be the same again.
I experience an overload of emotions on a daily basis.
Guilt, Anger, Sadness, Grief, Disgust, Betrayal and Hate.
I don’t believe humans were designed to feel so many different, negative emotions at one time. I don’t believe that we were put here to kill and hurt innocent people the way the three of you have.
And therefore, I don’t believe that you should ever be allowed to walk free, lurking around corners stalking your next victims.
After all, if Vumazonke, a known criminal, hadn’t been released, Jayde may still have been alive today.
I no longer believe in heaven and hell, I believe that good and evil is here amongst us every day, it’s the people we meet, the people we love and the strangers we pass on the streets.
Everyone screams bring back the death penalty, but I do not wish death on either of you, because you do not deserve the peacefulness that death has to offer.
I want you to know that we (mom, dad and I) will never ever forgive you. No matter how many people insist we must and no matter how many years pass. The cowards sitting in this row here today will never be forgiven.
I hope that you will experience the fear that Jayde felt on her last morning every single day, for the rest of your lives, while we finally get to celebrate the most beautiful person and cherish the memories we had with her.