Death of alleged hitman in Panayiotou murder case won't affect trial: NPA
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says the death of alleged triggerman in the Jayde Panayiotou murder case, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, on Wednesday will not affect the state's case with trial set to begin in October.
Vumazonke died in the ICU at Livingstone Hospital, Port Elizabeth, after slipping into a coma at the hospital where he had been admitted after falling ill about two weeks ago. Vumazonke's absense resulted in two postponements of the murder case's pre-trial hearing in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
While the actual illness that sent him to the hospital has not been disclosed, rumours have been doing rounds that he might have been poisoned in prison.
NPA spokesperson, Tshepo Ndwalaza, told the SABC that they are waiting for the results of a toxicology report.
“It is very sad that he has passed on, but we believe that our case is still intact and we have people accused in this matter still in custody. We are going to proceed as planned on October 10 when the trial begins. We are in the dark with regards to what he has died of so really we have heard about the speculation that he was poisoned and all that.”
It is alleged that disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman, Christopher Panayiotou, paid Luthando Siyoli, 31, a bouncer at his nightclub in Algoa Park, R75 000 to hire a hitman Vumazonke, 30, for the murder of his wife, Jayde in April 2015.
Vumazonke, with assistance, bundled Jayde into the boot of her car - to make it look like a hijacking, outside the Panayiotous' Kabega Park home, before driving her to KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, where he apparently shot her point blank and dumped her body there, where it was later discovered.
While the search for her ensued, images were circulated apparently showing Vumazonke withdrawing money from several ATMs from Jayde's account.
Vumazonke was the third suspect to be arrested in connection with the murder case in May 2015. He was arrested in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, and made headlines when he appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court with visible bruises on his face. In dismissing speculation of police brutallity during his interrogation, the state alleged that he tried to run away from police during his arrest.
Apparently, at the time of his arrest he had already had a brush with the law after being previously convicted of robbery.
In July 2015, the St Albans Prison was forced to install a "cellphone detecting" system after it emerged that Vumazonke had been active on his Facebook account while incarcerated at the facility.
Late in October last year, Nenembe, 28, who is related to Vumazonke, was also linked to the case, after police arrested him for the murder of 72 year old Denise Webber on 20 August 2015 in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth.
The 25th of August was the first time that another suspect, Zolani Sibeko, who previously claimed that his surname was Roxo, appeared with the other accused in court.
He was arrested in July in Greenbushes connection with Jayde's murder and previously appeared in the Port Elizabeth’s Magistrate’s Court where he was denied bail.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), police used cellphone plotting and placed Sibeko outside the Panayiotou's Stellen Glen complex at the time that Vumazonke and Nenembe allegedly kidnapped Jayde.
In June, Panayiotou was denied bail by the Port Elizabeth Magistrates' Court for the second time after his legal team failed to convince the court of new facts that would warrant bail.
Siyoni has since turned State witness and it has been the defence's case that he was assaulted by the police to get a confession out of him - the same confession that implicated Panayiotou.
The actual trial will begin on 3 October 2016 and is expected to last for two months or until 2 December 2016.
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