Panayiotou and co-accused expected in court as trial resumes

APRIL 19, 2017
Panayiotou and co-accused expected in court as trial resumes

The murder trial of disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman, Christopher Panayiotou, and his alleged accomplices, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, is expected to resume on Wednesday in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

The trio already pleaded not guilty to the charges of abducting and killing Panayiotou's wife, Jayde, in April 2015.

The men appeared in the Port Elizabeth High Court for the beginning of their trial without alleged hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, who died at the beginning of September after slipping into a coma at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth, where he had been admitted after falling ill at St Albans Correctional Facility.

Still, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that Vumazonke's death will not affect the state's case against Panayiotou and his co-accused

The trial began with State Prosecutor, Marius Stander, laying out the charges for the trio, which include conspiracy to commit murder, murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition.

The State slapped Panayiotou with an additional charge of defeating the ends of justice.

Stander told the court that on a count of murder, the men face a possibility of life imprisonment and on an account of robbery with aggravating circumstances, they could each face up to 15 years behind bars.

Cold and brutal murder

The State also revealed chilling details about what happened on the day of Jayde's murder.

The 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.

According to Stander, she was shot twice through her back and then fell to the ground before alleged hitman, Vumazonke stood over her and shot her in the face as she raised her hands as gunshot residue was found on her left hand.

Her body was keft in the veld outside KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, where it was found by authorities the next day.

Stander told the court that after the murder Vumazonke, visited his sangoma aunt, Zoleka Zekani, for a “cleansing” before leaving for Cape Town.

Alleged middleman, who was also a bouncer at Panayiotou's night club and has since turned State witness, Luthando Siyoni, went to the businessman's OK Grocer to collect payment.

But things took a turn, when police raised suspicions and through investigations nabbed Siyoni.

Before long Panayiotou was also behind bars and later Vumazonke.

In October 2015, police arrested then 28 year-old Sinethemba Nenembe, who was actually in police custody for the murder of 72 year old Denise Webber on 20 August 2015 in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, when detectives uncovered evidence that positively linked him to the Panayioutou murder.

In July 2016, Zolani Sibeko, who insisted his surname is Roxo, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder and abduction after police said they had also linked him to the murder. Cellphone plotting had shown that Sibeko was present at the time that Jaybe was kidnapped in Kabega Park.

Trial so far

While Siyoni, was the State's key witness, he was declared a hostile witness when his version to the court differed from his statement to police. He alleged that police interrogators assaulted him when he gave the statement that implicated Panayiotou.

The police denied the allegation.

When Stander attempted to discredit Siyoni's new version of events, he refused to answer any questions and was declared a hostile witness.

His girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, shared the same fate after she also changed her version of events.

She was arrested and charged with perjury and later appeared briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court where the charges were provisionally withdrawn.

The trial is expected to continue with a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of a recording of a conversation between Panayiotou and Siyoni in a police sting operation the week after Jayde was killed.

A transcript of the conversation was revealed during Panayiotou’s original bail application.