Port Elizabeth – The second sitting of the trial of Christopher Panayiotou and his co-accused will resume in the High Court in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday morning.
Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe, and Zolani Sibeko face charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing Panayiotou’s wife Jayde. A fourth suspect, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died before the trial began.
Vumazonke allegedly confessed to the murder to his aunt, Zoleka Zekani, a traditional healer. The confession was ruled inadmissible due to being hearsay evidence, as Vumazonke’s death meant he could not challenge his aunt’s version of events.
The 29-year-old teacher was kidnapped outside her townhouse complex in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, while waiting for her lift to Riebeek College Girls High School, on the morning of Tuesday, April 21, 2015.
She was found shot dead in a veld outside KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage, the following day.
Luthando Siyoni, who worked as a bouncer for Panayiotou at his nightclub, Infinity, was the first suspect arrested on April 27. He turned State witness, but was declared a hostile witness when his version to the court differed from his statement to police.
He alleged that police assaulted him during his initial interrogation. Police denied this.
When prosecutor Marius Stander sought to discredit Siyoni’s testimony, he refused to answer any questions put to him.
Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, was also declared a hostile witness after changing her version of events in the trial last year. She was arrested and charged with perjury. She appeared briefly in the magistrate’s court earlier this year, where the charges were provisionally withdrawn.
Photos of Jayde’s body lying in the field where she was killed were presented to the court.
Based on the testimony of forensic expert, Warrant Officer Phillip Bekker, Jayde was on her haunches, one arm raised in an attempt to protect herself, when she was shot.
Bekker testified about the movements of the white Toyota Etios Vumazonke hired. Based on the GPS co-ordinates from the tracking device, the car was allegedly used to follow Jayde in the weeks leading up to, and on the day of, her kidnapping and murder.
The State had called witnesses to testify about the possible motives Panayiotou would have had to have his wife murdered, including his affair with his employee, Chanelle Coutts.
Clarishka Kapp, a friend of Coutts, said Panayiotou had told her he was worried about losing her when he married Jayde.
During his plea explanation, Panayiotou said he loved Jayde and had been falsely implicated in her death, and believed the State had “trashed” his right to a fair trial.
The trial is expected to continue with a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of a recording of a conversation between Panayiotou and Siyoni in a police sting operation the week after Jayde was killed. A transcript of the conversation was revealed during Panayiotou’s original bail application.