State to continue Panayiotou case after 'confession' setback

Port Elizabeth - The trial of Christopher Panayiotou, accused of the murder of his wife Jayde, enters its fifth day in the High Court in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

On Monday, the State’s case was dealt a blow when Judge Dayalin Chetty ruled the hearsay “confession” of the deceased alleged hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke to his sangoma aunt, Zoleka Zekani, was inadmissible.

Vumazonke died in a Port Elizabeth hospital in September. He was arrested in connection with the abduction and murder of Jayde Panayiotou early in May, a few weeks after her body was found in a field on the outskirts of Kwanobuhle on April 22. 

Jayde was abducted while waiting for her lift outside her Stellen Glen complex, on Deacon Road in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, on April 21. Her body was found the next day. She had been shot three times. She was a teacher at Riebeek College Girls' High School in Uitenhage.

Panayiotou was arrested for allegedly orchestrating her murder. He allegedly asked a bouncer at his Infinity Cocktail Bar in Algoa Park, Luthando Siyoni, to hire a hitman to kill Jayde. Siyoni has since turned State witness.

Panayiotou and his co-accused Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko are on trial on charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing, and killing Jayde. They pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Marius Stander called Zekani to the stand to testify about the day Vumazonke appeared at her house in Kwanobuhle.

Chetty allowed Zekani’s testimony about what she saw, including how Vumazonke appeared visibly shaken and had a bag containing a laptop and school books.

When Stander brought an application for her to read into evidence what Vumazonke had told her, Panayiotou’s lawyer Terry Price, and Peter Daubermann, for Nenembe and Sibeko, objected. They said their clients would be prejudiced by the evidence because the State had accused them of acting in common purpose.

Chetty reviewed Zekani’s statement and ruled it inadmissible. Court was adjourned for the day. 

The testimony of Warrant Officer Paul Franks, who was present when Jayde’s body was found, included a photograph of the crime scene. The photo shows Jayde lying on her back in the grass. Her mother and sister left the court in tears when they saw it.

The case is expected to resume in courtroom A at 09:30.

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