Panayiotou investigating officer testifies in trial within a trial

2017-04-24 17:10
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 - The investigating officer in the Christopher Panayiotou case, Rhynhardt Kanna Swanepoel, took to the stand in the trial against him and his co-accused in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday morning.

Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, are facing charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing Panayiotou's wife Jayde, who was abducted outside her townhouse complex in Kabega Park, and later murdered in a field near KwaNobuhle on April 21, 2015. A fourth suspect, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died before the trial began.

Swanepoel was called to testify in the trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of the recording of Panayiotou and his bouncer, Luthando Siyoni - the alleged middleman turned State witness shortly after Jayde’s murder.

Panayiotou’s defence council have argued that Siyoni was tortured into making his confession and, as such, all further evidence should be inadmissible as "fruit from the poisonous tree".

Swanepoel told the court how he had been asked by the provincial head of detectives, Brian McLaren, to take over the case as the head of a team of investigators. He said he had first met Siyoni the day after he had been arrested.

Stander questioned Swanepoel around the reasoning for calling Panayiotou. He told the court that the idea had come from Siyoni, who had volunteered to call Panayiotou to get him to implicate himself in the murder as he wanted to become a state witness. He said Siyoni had told him he was not prepared to go down for someone else’s actions.   

Assault denied

Swanepoel said that Siyoni had never been threatened or assaulted in any way. He admitted that profanity had been used during the interviews on April 28 and 29, but that this had not been directed at Siyoni.

Swanepoel said, following Siyoni’s offer to call Panayiotou, legal advice had been sought and that a plan had been made to set up a meeting between Siyoni and Panayiotou, as they had sought to verify Siyoni’s version of events. He said it had never been the plan to entrap Panayiotou.

He further confirmed that, of the 13 calls made to Panayiotou on April 28, only six had actually been answered, and one had been answered by another person, later identified as Donovan Vosloo.

Swanepoel said the vehicle that was used in the sting operation had been available on the 28th, but after failing to set up a meeting, they had released it back to the unit from which it had been borrowed.

He said, after four missed calls were received on Siyoni’s phone the following afternoon, they had had to recall the vehicle, which was on its way back to East London. This had led to Siyoni playing for time in setting up the meeting with Panayiotou, saying he was in Jeffreys Bay.

Swanepoel told the court that he had not been present in Algoa Park when the meeting had finally taken place on the evening of the 29th, but had reviewed the video footage afterwards. He had then consulted with two advocates from the directorate of public prosecutions, and they had collectively decided that there was sufficient evidence to warrant an arrest.

Critical witness

He told the court that, on arrival at Panayiotou’s parent’s home, they had noticed that there were several people there and, for humanitarian reasons, had sent Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen - who had been a family friend at the time - in to call Panayiotou out. He said Panayiotou’s father had first come out, and then Chris, who was placed under arrest for murder and was warned of his rights.

Swanepoel said, at the time, that Panayiotou had indicated that the family would secure an attorney and had said very little, only answering questions when asked, which led him to believe he was exercising his right to remain silent.

When Swanepoel finished leading his evidence in chief, defence Advocate Terry Price asked Judge Dayalin Chetty if he could request to have Swanepoel stand down, as he was a critical witness and needed to prepare his cross examination. Price asked if the three following witnesses, that Stander planned to call, could be called in the interim, as their evidence was expected to be short.

Stander indicated that he could possibly have one, or even two of the witnesses called to appear on Monday afternoon. Chetty then asked Swanepoel to stand down, but explained he was not yet released as a witness, and court was adjourned until 14:00.

The case continues

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

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