Jayde’s friend recalls the day she vanished

2016-10-12 15:41
Cherise Swanepoel has testified in the murder case of Jayde Panayiotou. (News24)

Cherise Swanepoel has testified in the murder case of Jayde Panayiotou. (News24)

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Port Elizabeth - A close friend and work colleague of slain Jayde Panayiotou on Wednesday recalled the harrowing moment she arrived to pick her up and found she had vanished.

Cherise Swanepoel told the Port Elizabeth High Court that she and Jayde, one of her closest friends, had arranged to alternate driving together to Riebeek College Girl’s High College in Uitenhage, where they both worked.

She was the State’s first witness in the trial of Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko on charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing, and killing Jayde on April 21 2015. All pleaded not guilty.

Panayiotou has also pleaded not guilty to defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

Swanepoel said, to questions from prosecutor Marius Stander, that she would message Jayde that she was leaving home and Jayde would meet her outside the Stellen Glencomplex, in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth.

Jayde would usually be the only one outside the gate, apart from domestic workers walking to their jobs. She usually carried a laptop bag and sometimes school books.

"I had messaged Jayde to tell her I was putting in fuel. And because it was slightly drizzling, I asked her if I should come in to fetch her. She said ‘no’, she will come out," she said of the morning of Jayde’s murder.

Swanepoel sent her a message when she arrived. It never went through and she never received a reply. She waited a while. She tried to call her and it went directly to voicemail.

'I asked where Jayde was'

Stander said, according to cellphone records, Swanepoel sent an SMS at 06:34 and made a number of phone calls that went unanswered. She tried to call her landline, but ended the call because she did not want to wake Panayiotou as she knew he worked late.

Swanepoel confirmed she knew Panayiotou, but struggled to say his name. She became very emotional in the dock.

Defence lawyer Terry Price interjected and said it was not necessary to identify him as she knew him.

Swanepoel said Panayiotou knew where she lived as he had dropped her off once after a staff function.

Stander asked if she had spoken to Panayiotou. She said Panayiotou called her in October 2014, before Jayde’s birthday, and asked what cake and present she would want.

She called his cellphone the morning of Jayde’s disappearance and he picked up after a while.

"I asked where Jayde was. He said: 'What do you mean? She’s gone to work'."

Swanepoel told him that was impossible because Jayde knew she was on her way to pick her up.

"He said: 'Hang on, I’ll let you in'. He asked for a minute and he let me in."

Activity on bank account

When she got to Panayiotou’s door, he said something was not right and they jumped into his car to look outside the complex.

"En route, we passed by a police van and had stopped them and told them we were looking for his wife."

Swanepoel drove around the complex, thinking maybe Jayde had fainted on the way. She could not recall seeing anyone at the gate and Jayde’s car was still inside.

Police were at the complex when they got back. Panayiotou used a laptop to look at transactions on her internet banking, to see if someone had robbed her.

She, Panayiotou and Jayde’s father Derick later drove to Kwanobuhle to follow up on a tip-off about an ATM withdrawal. They received information that there was activity on her account at an ATM in Njoli Square, near a KFC outlet.

Stander finished with his questioning.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    jayde panayiotou  |  christopher panayiotou  |  crime

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