Panayiotou trial Day 21: Judge rules against ‘trial within a trial’

NOVEMBER 10, 2016

It was a dramatic day in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday during the trial of disgraced businessman, Christopher Panayiotou. He is accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of his wife, Jayde, in April last year.

Thursday was meant to mark the start of the ‘Trial within a Trial’ process of the court proceedings, where the defence would attempt to argue that alleged middleman, Luthando Siyoni, was beaten by police in order to extract a confession that was then used by the police to implicate Panayiotou.

State Prosecutor, Marius Stander, began by stating that any evidence pertaining to Siyoni should not be part of the ‘trial within a trial’, and that he was not being presented in the court as an ‘accused’, but as a section 204 ‘state witness’.

“A trial within a trial is for an accused and infringement of his rights, and also to not face cross-examination,” said Stander.

Stander stated that he could not find one case where a court needed to go into a ‘trial within a trial’ to decide admissibility of a section 204 witness, and that the matter of his alleged assault would be dealt with in the main case.

He elaborated reasons for not proceeding with the ‘trial within trial’, using previous cases and judgements, as examples, and stated that the Defence could try bringing it up near the end of the trial.

Defence advocate, Terry Price, then told the court that he had been ambushed by the State as he had not prepared for this new development.

“We all know that Siyoni will tell the court he was assaulted. I was up until 2am to prepare for today, but I am ready to argue,” said Price.

“When Siyoni was assaulted he was an accused. I have been ambushed again.”

Judge Dalayin Chetty ruled that the ‘trial within a trial’ would therefore not take place “for now”, and that Siyoni's evidence does not have to be determined by a ‘trial within a trial’.

Siyoni was meant to take the stand after a break, but his attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, stated that his client could not take the stand as there were outstanding documents he needed beforehand.

“I can't properly advise my client without the documents,” Ngqeza told the court.

A postponement to Friday was called, where Siyoni is expected to take the stand and testify.

The trial continues.