Port Elizabeth – The case against Christopher Panayiotou and his co-accused is finally ready to go to trial, despite the recent death of the alleged hitman in the case.
Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko stand accused of the murder of Jayde Panayiotou on April 21, 2015. She was kidnapped outside her townhouse complex in Kabega Park while waiting for her friend to give her a lift to the school where she taught.
Her body was found in a veld in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, the next day. She had been shot three times.
Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, believed to be the hitman hired by bouncer Luthando Siyoni – who had been in the employ of Panayiotou at the time and who has subsequently turned State witness – died in a Port Elizabeth hospital last week.
Vumazonke had been in custody since his arrest in early May last year. The August pre-trial hearing was postponed because Vumazonke had apparently been suffering from an unknown illness for weeks and had been violently ill in the holding cells.
He had struggled up the stairs and appeared to have lost a lot of weight. He was hospitalised immediately after the August proceedings were postponed. The rescheduled appearance on September 5 was again postponed after the court heard that Vumazonke had slipped into a coma days later.
Addressing Judge Glen Goosen in the High Court in Port Elizabeth on Thursday morning, prosecutor Marius Stander confirmed that Vumazonke had since died, although the State was not yet in possession of the death certificate. No reference was made to a toxicology report linked to Vumazonke’s illness that the State had been waiting for.
Vumazonke’s defence team, Michelle Blignaut and Advocate Hannelie Bakker, have officially withdrawn from the case.
Stander told Judge Goosen he had consulted with both Panayiotou’s defence team – consisting of attorney Alwyn Griebenow and Advocate Terry Price – and with attorney Peter Daubermann, who was representing both Nenembe and Sibeko, and that they were in agreement that the matter was ready for trial.
Stander requested that the matter be put down for trial from October 11 to December 2.
Daubermann however objected, saying he had sent a request to Stander on August 29 already requesting clarity on the summary statement from the State, which alleges that his clients had conspired and had acted with common purpose.
He said he had tried to submit a copy of the correspondence for Judge Goosen’s attention, but that the registrar’s office had been locked.
Goosen reprimanded Daubermann, and enquired whether the office had in fact been locked.
Goosen asked Daubermann whether the matter would have an impact on his availability. Daubermann said it would not.
He then informed Daubermann that, should the response from the State relating to his query have any impact on his readiness for the trial, he could take the matter up with the trial judge on October 11.
The judge then said he was satisfied that the trial could proceed, the trial roll for the fourth quarter had been prepared and the trial would commence on October 11.
Goosen confirmed that the trial judge would be Judge Dayalin Chetty.