Christopher Paniyiotou: Conditions at St Albans Prison 'despicable and disgusting'
The Port Elizabeth Magistrates Court on Thursday agreed the bail hearing of Christopher Panayiotou, who stands accused of allegedly orchestrating the abduction and murder of his wife, Jayde Panayiotou, be postponed to Wednesday, 20 May at 09:00.
Panayiotou will remain in holding cells at St Albans until then. He says he will be pleading not guilty.
Early on, he touched off social media criticism when he said, in an affidavit read by his lawyer, that he should be granted bail because the conditions at St Albans Prison were "despicable and disgusting".
Panayiotou launched his bail application on Thursday at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court. His family were also in attendance.
Christopher’s lawyer, Advocate Terry Price, reading Christopher’s affidavit, said that “there isn't ventilation, ablution facilities in his cell” and that "I'm more likely to be hurt in prison versus at home in my own community."
This led many people on Twitter to respond that he should not be granted bail on that basis – “prison is not a hotel,” tweeted one user.
According to the state, Christopher faces the charges of conspiracy to commit murder as well as defeating the ends of justice.
The State indicated that it then opposed bail since Panayiotou faced a Schedule 6 offense.
Defense arguement for bail
Advocate Terry Price then presented the defense's arguement for bail to be granted.
With photos of St Albans Prison, he said that the poor conditions were in contravention of the Constitution and Correctional Services Act. He said he does not know how long he will be able to survive under the aforementioned "disgusting" conditions in the holding cells.
Panayiotou also indicated that he has already given his passport to his attorney and that he has instructed them to hand it over to police if so requested.
"I have no intention to leave country. I believe I will be found innocent. And I will await my trial," he said.
He said he is prepared to pay whatever the court sets as his bail.
He argued that no motive for murder has yet been put forward
The also affidavit listed his business interests and that the business that he runs, namely the OK Grocer in Algoa Park is responsible for 60 people - should he remain in custody his businesses would likely collapse.
Price said he is aware that the State claim to have a strong case against Christopher, but the State also said it had a strong case in the Oscar Pistorius case, and he was given bail.
Panayiotou said shock or outrage by society at his release on bail does not allow the court to undermine his rights.
He says there have been many other "more serious" murders have been committed whereby the suspects have been released on bail.
Panayiotou also told the court that "Jayde and I were in love".
His lawyer said that if bail was not granted, it woul be a matter of punishment before conviction.
The best boss
In supporting affidavits, from his employees, Panayiotou was described by one employee as "the best boss I've ever had" while another one described him as "boss and friend" who is a "good listener who treats his staff with respect".
Offer for evidence to disappear
It also emerged during the hearing that an individual had offered to make all evidence and the state witness disappear.
According to Price, a person told Panayiotou that the denial of bail would due to one of the suspects turning State witness.
Panayiotou went on to say that the man said for a fee of R45 000, the witness could be removed as well as evidence such as cell phone and dockets could disappear.
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