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

2017-06-27 17:12
Christopher Panayiotou alongside his co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe in court. (Derrick Spies, News24)

Christopher Panayiotou alongside his co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe in court. (Derrick Spies, News24)

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Port Elizabeth – The State finalised its case against Christopher Panayiotou and his co-accused in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

In a surprise move, State prosecutor Marius Stander concluded his case after defence attorney Peter Daubermann finished his cross-examination of warrant officer Shane Bosch.

AS IT HAPPENED: State closes case in Panayioutou trial

It had been believed that Stander was going to recall investigating officer Kanna Swanepoel to the stand.

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, 2015.

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

Jayde's last moments recreated

In some of the most graphic evidence led, photos of Jayde’s body lying in the field where she was killed were presented to the court.

Judge Dayalin Chetty advised people in the public gallery to leave the court if they did not want to see them.

Based on the testimony of forensic expert Warrant Officer Phillip Bekker, Jayde had been crouching down on her haunches, with her arm up in self-defence, when she had been shot.

Bekker also testified on the movements of a hired white Toyota Etios which was rented by Vumazonke.

GPS co-ordinates obtained from the tracking device showed how the vehicle had tracked Jayde in the weeks leading up to her abduction and murder, as well as the movements of the vehicle on the day of her murder.

Motive for murder sought

The State called witnesses to testify on Panayiotou's possible motives for having his wife murdered, and about his affair with his employee, Chanelle Coutts.

Clarishka Kapp, a friend of Coutts, said Panayiotou had told her he was worried about losing Coutts when he married Jayde.

The state also led evidence relating to Panayiotou's financial affairs, including the fact that the house he had bought in Lovemore Heights had been registered in his name only.

This despite money loaned to them by Jayde’s parents and a loan Jayde had taken at the bank after Panayiotou’s application had been declined.

Alleged hitman's confession inadmissible

The State called Vumazonke’s aunt, a traditional healer, who testified to having seen her nephew the day of the murder.

The aunt had previously made a statement that Vumazonke had confessed to her.

The confession was ruled inadmissible due to being hearsay evidence, as Vumazonke’s death meant he could not challenge his aunt's version of events, but the fact that he had been at her home and that she had been upset by what he had told her was allowed.

State's case dealt blow by hostile witnesses

Key State witness Luthando Siyoni, who worked as a bouncer for Panayiotou at his nightclub Infinity, was the first suspect arrested for Jayde's murder.

Siyoni confessed to his role as the middleman between Panayiotou and Vumazonke, and made a section 204 statement.

However, in court, the former gym owner gave a different version of events and was ultimately declared a hostile witness.

When Stander sought to discredit Siyoni’s court testimony, Siyoni refused to answer any questions put to him.

Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, was also declared a hostile witness after changing her version of events in the trial last year.

She was arrested and charged with perjury.

She appeared briefly in the magistrate's court earlier this year, where the charges were provisionally withdrawn.

Among other allegations, Siyoni claimed he had been severely beaten by police during his initial interrogation, which became the crux of a trial-within-a-trial on the admissibility of a secret police recording between Siyoni and Panayiotou.

Trial-within-a-trial determined video admissible

Following a protracted trial-within-a-trial, Judge Chetty ruled the video could be submitted into evidence by the state.

In the video, Panayiotou can be seen dismantling his cellphone and is heard repeatedly telling Siyoni to destroy his SIM card and to get rid of his phone.

He can also be heard telling Siyoni it was supposed to look like a robbery and that the abduction, and the fact that they never took her jewellery, made it now look like a hit.

Forensic expert links co-accused using phones

Forensic expert Thereza Botha testified on a report she had compiled, which traced the movements of various cellphones based on their proximity to cellphone towers.

This evidence showed how the co-accused's cellphone movements relate to the GPS evidence showing the movements of the hired vehicle believed to have been used in the murder.

Botha also highlighted links between various role players based on calls made.

Defence to begin its case

Panayiotou's defence, Advocate Terry Price, said he was surprised that Stander had not called Swanepoel to the stand.

He asked Judge Chetty if, now that that the State had concluded its case, he could consult with the State witnesses, specifically Chanelle Coutts and Donovan Vosloo, as neither had been called.

Chetty granted him permission, after which Price indicated he would need time to prepare.

Price also indicated he would not be available for court proceedings on Wednesday, due to another matter.

Judge Chetty then adjourned court until Thursday at 09.30, when the defence is set to begin their case.

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

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