Few more witnesses called for Panayiotou defence

2017-09-27 15:49
Christopher Panayiotou in court. (Derrick Spies/News24)

Christopher Panayiotou in court. (Derrick Spies/News24)

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Port Elizabeth – After calling a surprise witness in the Christopher Panayiotou case, the defence called two more witnesses before the matter stood down for the day.

Panayiotou and his co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, are facing charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing Panayiotou's wife Jayde. A fourth suspect, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died before the trial began.

The beloved 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 in 2015. She was found shot dead in a veld outside KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage, the following day.

Also read: Surprise witness in Panayiotou case

Defence advocate, Terry Price SC, has indicated that he will only be calling five witnesses in total. He first called advocate Selvan Gounden, who heads up the Organised Crime component at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the Eastern Cape.

Gounden testified that he did not give permission to record the conversation between Panayiotou and alleged middle man turned state witness, Luthando Siyoni, contrary to evidence given by the investigating officer Kanna Swanepoel.

Price then called Anthony Emmett, Eastern Cape operations manager for OK franchises, who gave evidence relating to a conversation with Panayiotou's ex-employee, Mawonga Ndedwa.

Ndedwa had earlier testified for the State how he had stumbled upon R30 000 in the OK Grocer store room and was told by his boss that he should pass the money on to Siyoni.

Ndedwa was fired from the OK Grocer for stealing whiskey, but had claimed at the time he had deliberately decided to get himself fired so that he could claim full unemployment benefits.

Emmett told the court he had been asked by Chanelle Coutts, Panayiotou's mistress, and Fanoula Panayiotou, his mother, to attend a meeting between them and Ndedwa, to inform him he was being fired.

He said Ndedwa had laughed during the dismissal and had said he had a cellphone in his possession which Panayiotou had used. Emmett said Ndedwa had later approached him outside the OK Grocer while he was having a smoke, and demanded R150 000 in exchange for the phone.

"He told me 'Tell Mama she must pay me R150 000 or I'm taking the cellphone to the police'," Emmett told the court. 

Panayiotou upset when Jayde's body found

Price also asked Emmett about Panayiotou's emotional state on the day Jayde’s body had been found.

Price said state witness Pieter Bekker, who was married to one of Panayiotou's relatives, had told the court in November last year that Panayiotou had showed "little emotion" at the scene.

Emmett said this was not true.

"He was very distraught. I have never seen him like that. He was crying on the phone," he said. 

After Emmett, Price called Maurizio Bertolani, a close friend of Panayiotou's.

Also read: State rests its case in Panayiotou trial: An overview, so far

In a brief appearance, Bertolani gave evidence with regards to the movements of Panayiotou when they were searching for Jayde.

He also testified that Panayiotou had been upset on the day that Jayde had been found.

"When I saw him he was tearful, his eyes were red and swollen," he said.

Only two more witnesses to be called

Price then indicated that he would like to recall Laurika Booi, who had worked as an employee at an internet café for Panayiotou. Booi, however, was on her way to East London and would not be available to testify until Friday.

Price also indicated that his last witness, Coutts, could not get leave from work and would only be available to testify at the next sitting in October.

"She is currently working at the Spar, who bought the OK Grocer from the Panayiotous, and there are only three managers there and two of them are currently on leave, so she is not available," he said.

Judge Dayalin Chetty then asked Price to try and get Coutts to court before the end of the week.

Court then adjourned for the day.

The case resumes on Thursday, where state advocate Marius Stander will cross-examine Gounden. 

Read more on:    christopher panayiotou  |  port elizabeth  |  crime

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