Neighbour describes man she saw at spot where Jayde disappeared

2016-10-27 21:05
The accused in the Panayiotou case. (Derrick Spies, News24)

The accused in the Panayiotou case. (Derrick Spies, News24)

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Cape Town – A man was standing at the complex entrance where slain Jayde Panayiotou usually waited for her lift, her neighbour told the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

Tracy Smith lived next door to the Jayde and her husband Chris in the Stellen Glen complex, in Kabega Park.

She lived there at the time of Jayde's disappearance on April 21, 2015, but had since moved out.

Prosecutor Marius Stander called her as a State witness and asked her what she remembered about that day.

Jayde, a teacher at Riebeek College Girls' High School in Uitenhage, was abducted while waiting for her lift outside the complex in Deacon Road. She was holding a bag full of schoolbooks and a laptop.

Her husband Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko pleaded not guilty to conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing her.

Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, believed to be the hitman hired by State witness Luthando Siyoni, died in a Port Elizabeth hospital in September. Siyoni worked as a bouncer at Panayiotou's Infinity Cocktail Bar in Algoa Park.

Smith told the court she was a nurse. She worked a 07:00 to 19:00 shift and usually left her home around 06:15. She recalled she was running late the morning Jayde disappeared.

Man standing at gate

"I remember I went to the car and had to run back into the house. It was around 06:20."

She saw a black man standing at the complex gate near the keypad.

As the gate opened, he moved from one side to the other side.

"So we stopped at the gate… because there was a car approaching our car and the gate was also not closing behind us," she said.

"My mom said he wants to turn in but I said no, because he is not indicating. When he drove past, we turned."

As Smith's car pulled away, she saw a woman approaching the gate.

Stander asked if she was able to identify the man and woman. She said she did not get a close look at the man. The woman was petite.

The vehicle that drove past was white but she said she was not good with identifying vehicle models. In her affidavit, she said it looked like a new Opel Corsa hatch. In court, she confirmed it was a white vehicle without a boot. She did not know how many people were inside the vehicle that day.

The court heard that she clearly remembered seeing that vehicle on two occasions the week before.

Forgotten details

The first time it was on the corner of Deacon Street and Ritchie Crescent. "I thought it was waiting for someone to give a lift."

The second time she saw the vehicle she took note because it turned into a playschool. On that occasion there were four people inside, she said.

During cross-examination she confirmed to Panayiotou's lawyer Terry Price that she gave a statement to police and had an opportunity to read it.

"You say here that you can't remember what he looked like. Here [in the statement] you say he was wearing blue jeans." Smith said she did not recall the detail on Thursday.

Trying to jog her memory, Price asked about the man's build. She said he had a slight build but could not remember his height.

"All over this statement you refer to a white Opel Corsa," he pointed out. She said she told police it was a similar model.

"The person you saw, walking down to the gate. You also describe her as a petite woman wearing a grey coat," the lawyer said. "Did you know her? Did you know the people living in 19 Stellen Glen?"

She said she did not.

The trial was postponed until Friday.

Read more on:    christopher panayiotou  |  jayde panayiotou  |  port elizabeth  |  crime

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