Defence calls its first witness in Panayiotou trial-within-a-trial

2017-05-03 21:26
The accused, Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko in court. (Werner Hills, Netwerk24)

The accused, Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko in court. (Werner Hills, Netwerk24)

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Port Elizabeth – Murder-accused Christopher Panayiotou’s defence called their first witness in the trial-within-a-trial after the State finalised their case in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Panayiotou and his co accused, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, are on trial on charges of conspiring to kidnapping, rob, and kill Panayiotou’s wife Jayde.

The teacher at Riebeek College Girls’ High School in Uitenhage was bundled into a car outside her townhouse complex in Kabega Park on April 21, 2015. She was found shot dead in a field near KwaNobuhle the next day.

A fourth suspect, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died before the trial began.

The court is currently conducting a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of a video recording of a conversation between Panayiotou and Luthando Siyoni, a bouncer at his nightclub. He allegedly helped Panayiotou find Vumazonke to carry out the murder, and turned State witness.

Prosecutor Marius Stander placed the two sworn affidavits made by Panayiotou in his first and second bail applications, as well one made by his father, on record. Stander then said he had now finalised his case in the trial-within-a-trial.

Terry Price, SC, for Panayiotou then called former attorney, Anne Swanepoel, who had initially represented Vumazonke in the case, to the stand. Vumazonke had to seek new council after Swanepoel was removed from the roll of attorneys in July 2015, after a court found she stole R90 000 from a client and his counsel.

Swanepoel told the court she had represented Vumazonke in various “minor cases” over the past 15 years. When she came to the holding cells of the New Law Courts to see him following his arrest for the Panayiotou case, she could see he had been assaulted.

“He was tired and wasn’t standing upright. His left eye was severely swollen. It was closed. He couldn’t see through it. His jaw was also swollen, and his lip,” she said.

Swanepoel said Vumazonke told her police officers assaulted him at the Kabega Park police station. She gave notice of intent to initiate civil action against the police for wrongful arrest and had asked for access to Vumazonke’s medical file from St Albans prison, but never received it.

Stander told Swanepoel it had never been put to the court that Vumazonke was assaulted at the Kabega Park police station, but that he was injured during his arrest near the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Uitenhage.

The trial resumes on Thursday at 09:30.

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

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