Jubilation and tears as Panayiotou is sentenced to life

Christopher Panayiotou in court. (Derrick Spies/News24)
Christopher Panayiotou in court. (Derrick Spies/News24)

Port Elizabeth – The Inggs family and friends first clapped joyously and then burst into tears as Christopher Panayiotou was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of their daughter Jayde.

Panayiotou and his co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, were sentenced in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

Panayiotou, who was found guilty of murder, received a life sentence for his role in orchestrating the murder, while Nenembe was sentenced to life for murder and an additional 15 years for robbery. Sibeko, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, was sentenced to 15 years.

In passing sentence, Judge Dayalin Chetty said it was unnecessary to regurgitate his findings, except to say that the conspiracy Panayiotou had hatched was at the epicentre.

He said the money Panayiotou provided was, no doubt, the catalyst for Nenembe and Sibeko’s involvement.

"In my judgment, I described the crime as audacious because it, in truth, defies belief," he said.

Chetty said there was testimony before the court that Panayiotou, Jayde’s father and her father-in-law, had all cried at the scene where Jayde’s body had been found.

"I have no doubt that the sight of Jayde’s lifeless body reduced both her father and father-in-law to tears but, assuming that [Panayiotou] in fact shed a tear, it could only, given his orchestration of Jayde’s death, have been crocodile tears."

Panayiotou portrayed as the doting husband

Chetty said the great irony of the case was that Panayiotou continued to portray himself as the doting husband throughout the trial.

He said Panayiotou had delivered a eulogy for Jayde, where he heaped lavish praise on her and evoked the empathy of all and sundry and yet, unbeknown to them and the public at large, he had paid for her murder.

"This pretence endured unabated and, in due course, escalated to staggering proportions," Chetty added.

No remorse

Chetty said that, from the inception of the trial, Panayiotou had taken no responsibility for his actions.

"As the evidence unfolded and his orchestration of Jayde’s murder was laid bare, he has remained indifferent, defiant and, notwithstanding the sheer weight of the evidence against him, persists in avoiding all responsibility for his murderous conduct.

"This much is apparent from his counsel’s intimation to me, even before a date for the sentencing stage of these proceedings had been determined, that he would seek leave to appeal against his conviction.

"This cock-a-snook attitude accentuates his complete absence of remorse," he said.

Chetty accepted that Panayiotou was the product of a close-knit family and had no doubt that the trial had not only been unduly painful for them, but that it has also drained them emotionally.

"Whilst I have great empathy for their plight, I cannot overlook the incalculable loss suffered by Jayde’s family," he said.

Nenembe and Sibeko motivated by love of money

Chetty said Nenembe and Sibeko, were motivated by their love of money.

"[It] was the incentive for their participation in the plan to kill an innocent young woman, conduct for which there is, for all involved, no expiation," he said.

Chetty said he was driven to believe that Nenembe had a dual personality.

"His academic achievements stand in stark contrast to his ascension, in later life, to a career in crime." 

He said Nenembe, who was recently sentenced to eight years for a housebreaking in 2014, and his participation in Jayde’s murder a year later, demonstrated that he was not averse to violence.

Chetty said the circumstances around Sibeko was slightly different, but that the argument that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy was without foundation.

"If he did, he had the opportunity to say so but did not avail himself," he said.  

Jayde’s sister asks for privacy

In a letter on the Facebook page, Justice for Jayde Inggs, Jayde’s sister Toni, who is getting married on Saturday, said the time had finally come to close the most emotionally draining chapter of their lives.

Inggs said it had been hard to truly grieve losing Jayde.

"Please understand that this is now our time to mourn, our time to reminisce on the joyful times and to begin to find a way to move forward with our lives," she wrote.

"For nearly three years, my private family has had no choice, but to share all our pictures and memories with everyone while we weren't even capable of revisiting those memories ourselves.

"I say this in the nicest way possible with my heart on my sleeve, I am asking the amazing, supportive people of the public and media to please respect our privacy as we attempt to put our lives back together," she wrote.

Inggs said the family is forever grateful and blown away by the support they had received from strangers.

"In a time where all we knew was a bad world, bad people and bad thoughts, you proved to us that there is still a lot of good in the world. You kept us grounded. Thank you from the bottom of our broken hearts for giving us the courage and strength to tackle each day." 

Panayiotou will appeal

Panayiotou’s defence indicated that they will seek leave to appeal the murder conviction.

The application is set down for December 13.

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