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Murder-accused Christopher Panayiotou to learn fate on his birthday

Nov 2, 2017
Murder-accused Christopher Panayiotou to learn fate on his birthday

After a marathon trial that began in October 2016, disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman, Christopher Panayiotou, is now expected to hear his fate on Thursday when judgment is expected to be handed down in the Port Elizabeth High Court in Port Elizabeth.

Coincidentally, it is Panayiotou's 31st birthday.

Following closing arguments by both the State and the Defence, Judge Dayalin Chetty indicated that he would only need two days to hand down judgment, which is expected at 09:30 on Thursday.

'Planned murder'

Panayiotou and his alleged accomplices, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko, are accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of his wife, Jayde, in April 2015.

The 29-year-old teacher was allegedly abducted outside the couple's Kabega Park home, in Port Elizabeth, while she waited for her lift to Riebeek College Girls High School where she taught. Her body was found in a veld outside KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, the following day - she had been shot dead.

Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, who is the alleged triggerman in the murder, died in custody after suffering from a short illness at the St Albans Correctional Facility, just outside Port Elizabeth. 

It is alleged that Panayiotou, paid Luthando Siyoli, 31, a bouncer at his nightclub in Algoa Park, R75 000 to hire Vumazonke, 30, for the murder.

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.

More suspects

Late in October 2015, 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.

Another suspect, Zolani Sibeko, who previously claimed that his surname was Roxo, also appeared with the other accused in court.

He was arrested in July 2016 in Greenbushes connection with Jayde's murder.

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.

Panayiotou and his alleged accomplices have been languishing at the St Albans Prison after the courts twice denied him bail.

He is legally represented by Advocate Terry Price, instructed by Alwyn Griebenow, while Nenembe and Sibeko are legally represented by Peter Dauberman.

Incriminating video

In June this year, a secret video that incriminates Panayiotou in the murder of his wife was ruled as admissable by the Port Elizabeth High Court.

In the recording Panayiotou is seen getting into a car, that he was not aware had been electronically wired with video and audio recording equipment, to meet and talk to alleged middleman and former key State witeness, who has since been declared hostile, Luthando Siyoni.

Siyoni's girlfriend Babalwa Breakfast, was also declared a hostile witness. 

Closing arguments

In its closing arguments [Read the full document HERE] on Thursday last week, the State said that they have "now reached the stage where all the evidence has been placed before Court". 

"The State will argue that the events up to the point of the arrest of accused 1 [Christopher Panayiotou] point to a contract killing. This contract killing consisits of three stages to wit the preparation, execution and cover-up of the killing. It is therefore my submission that the count 3, kidnapping, forms an intergral part of the murder count, as the kidnapping took place in order to execute the contract killing.

"Similarly, it is my submission that count 7, defeating the course of justice, forms an intergral part of the greater plan to avoid detection/ arrest on the contract killing. This will therefore fall under the cover-up stage of the contract killing," State Prosecutor Marious Stander, said.

"It is further my submission that the State could not prove who, between Vumazonke and accused 3 [Nenembe], handled the fire-arm and therefore did not prove counts 5 and 6, the unlawful possession of the fire-arm and ammunition."

The State claims that Panayiotou sought the murder of Jayde after realising he could not afford to keep her and his alleged mistress, Chanelle Coutts, who was a Manager at his OK Grocer in Algoa Park. She took the stand in his defence in October

In its closing arguments, the Defence sought to prove that, at best, the evidence presented by the State in court was flawed and was illegally obtained. 

Panayiotou's lawyer, Advocate Terry Price, told the court that the State’s methods for obtaining evidence were "muddied" and that throughout his entire legal career, this case has been the "dirtiest case I have ever seen brought before the courts".

“My submission is that, from, at the very least, 27 April 2015 to now, every dirty trick imaginable has been pulled on these accused,” said Price.

“It's sad if this court is forced to say you may be guilty, but due to manner in which evidence was obtained, I'm forced to acquit you.”

The Defence advocate for Nenembe and Sibeko, Peter Daubermann, also argued along the same lines.

Read the Defence's Closing Argument HERE.

You can also read the Defence's replies to the State's closing arguments HEREHEREand HERE.