Port Elizabeth – The sister of murder accused Christopher Panayiotou asked the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Thursday not to sentence him to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife.
Addressing the court on behalf of the Panayiotou family, Kalleope Panayiotou said there was more to the accused than what had been revealed in the media.
Her brother was found guilty of murder, after arranging to have his wife Jayde killed.
His co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe, was also found guilty of murder and robbery, while Zolani Sibeko was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
Giving a bit of the accused's background, Kalleope said that he had played first team hockey and was a prefect at his school in Uitenhage.
He was described as a hard and dedicated worker, with a keen business sense.
She recounted how, on a school trip, her brother had helped carry the gear of a friend who was not feeling well. This, she said, showed that he was a loving, compassionate and caring person.
Kalleope said the family loved Jayde and missed her dearly.
"We would like this court to know that we all loved Jayde dearly. She was an integral part of both our family and extended family. We feel the void that her death has left every day," she said.
Family received death threats
However, she added that the family had been subjected to ongoing public onslaught and vile criticism, and even received death threats.
"Social media continues to crucify us. Despite receiving death threats, letters to our work places and homes, and being confronted in public spaces, we still keep quiet and to ourselves," she said.
Ask for a lesser sentence
Kalleope added that her brother had co-operated with the police.
"He has always had impeccable manners and been a polite gentleman."
"Although we respect the judgment of the court, as a loving family who chooses to support their son and brother and not desert him in his hour of need, we humbly ask for mercy in giving a lesser sentence than life," she said.
Addressing her brother directly, Kalleope said his family supported him.
"We love you and will stand by your side. Have faith. We do not harbour any hate and hope that everyone eventually finds peace in some way."
Panayiotou a psychopath
In his closing argument, state prosecutor Marius Stander submitted that, while Panayiotou may have been a kind man, he also had a very dark side.
"To stand up at a funeral and praise her and say that she was everything in his life, and then to watch the video. He falls closer to being a psychopath than a kind person," he said.
Panayiotou's defence advocate Terry Price objected to this, saying there was no evidence before the court that his client was a psychopath.
Stander said evidence showed Panayiotou had hired a vehicle for hitman Sizwe Vumazonke on April 8, 2015, which meant that, for 13 days he slept in the same bed as Jayde, knowing that she was marked for death. He still never backed out.
"I grow cold thinking what must have gone through her mind in the moments leading up to her death. This was a cold-blooded, execution murder," he said.
Judge Dayalin Chetty is expected to impose a sentence at 9:30 on Friday.
Read Kalleope’s full statement below
Good morning my lord
My Lord, I’d like to kindly request that no photographs or recordings are taken
This address is not from me personally, but from all of us in the family.
I just wanted to thank this honourable court for allowing us to address this court on behalf of the Panayiotou family. A meaningful quote, whose source is unknown, reads as follows: "Family… where life begins and where love never ends.” This epitomises the close bond that holds our family together. We would like this court to know that we all loved Jayde dearly. She was an integral part of both our family and extended family. Christopher and Jayde’s relationship spanned a period of 10 years. Jayde and our family shared endless happy times together over these years. We feel the void that her death has left every day. We miss her dearly.
As a family, we, and we have no doubt the Inggs family [Jayde's family] in particular, suffer the loss of Jayde constantly. We have respectfully not reacted to the ongoing public onslaught and often vile criticisms against our family. As if Jayde's death and Christopher being found guilty are not enough for us to bare, social media continues to crucify us. Despite receiving death threats, letters to our work places and homes and being confronted in public spaces we still keep quiet and to ourselves. Our turmoil of emotions, also continue.
There is a lot more to Christopher as a person than how he is portrayed in the media. We were brought up in Uitenhage and are a close tight-knit family. This is evident in the support we have had from all our family members – grandparents, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. We were brought up with a lot of respect and love. Christopher attended school in Uitenhage, where he was elected as a prefect in his final year and he represented the school as a first team hockey player.
We will never forget when Christopher was at school and he went on a school camp which all the senior learners attend. One of his group members was not feeling well and could no longer hike up the mountain (an approximately 24km hike), Christopher carried his gear and assisted him all the way to the top and continuously made sure he was by his side. This shows that Christopher is a loving, compassionate and a caring person. This is also evident from quotes from his teachers in an article written and titled “Gentle Giant”.
After school, he attended college and completed his Business Management Diploma. He then worked as an estate agent temporarily and a medical rep thereafter. He was hard-working and always reached his goals. Furthermore he worked as a manager in one of the retail supermarkets and was dedicated. He always wanted the best for his workplace. During this time he was elected as the Greek youth committee president for two consecutive years, where his main drive in organising events to fundraise towards the local community as well as contributing towards bursary funds for underprivileged youth.
Christopher, together with our father and uncle then decided to buy the OK Grocer in Algoa Park. Christopher always had good business sense and the day to day running of the business was left to him. He managed to quadruple the turnover and changed the business completely. We have worked with him in the family business and we can truly say that we have learnt a lot from him as he was committed and took pride in everything he did.
Christopher has taken everything that has come his way and cooperated with the police as testified by police officers in this case. He has always had impeccable manners and been a polite gentleman.
Although we respect the judgement of the court, as a loving family who chooses to support their son and brother and not desert him in his hour of need, we humbly ask for mercy in giving a lesser sentence than life.
To our brother and son, know that your family is supporting you. We love you and will stand by your side. Have faith. We do not harbour any hate and hope that everyone eventually finds peace in some way.
That is all, my lord.