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Panayiotou pushes ahead for access to case docket

Dec 2, 2015
Panayiotou pushes ahead for access to case docket

Christopher Panayiotou took his bid to gain access to the case docket in which he stands accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife, Jayde, to the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday afternoon.

It is alleged that Panayiotou paid Luthando Siyoli, 31 - a bouncer at his nightclub in Algoa Park - to hire a hit man, identified as Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 30, to murder his wife. Late in October Sinethemba Nenembe, 28, was also linked to the case. Siyoli has since turned state witness.

In a lengthy motion hearing on Tuesday afternoon, Senior Advocate Albert Beyleveld argued in front of Judge John Smith that his client, Panayiotou, who himself was not present, required access to the case docket. If not that, he should at least get full access to four specific statements that are part of the case docket.

The statements are those of Panayiotou's mistress, Chanelle Coutts, her best friend Clarissa Kapp, Cherise Swanepoel (who was the woman who was supposed to give Jayde Panayiotou a lift to school the day she was murdered), as well as Syoli's affidavit as a state witness.

Beyleveld argued that the information was important for two main reasons: the defence was currently seeking access to the state docket as part of a new bail application and that by denying access to the docket, Panayiotou was being denied the right to a fair trial.

Panayiotou's initial bail application was denied on June 5.

Beyleveld said that, on the basis of current evidence, it appeared unlikely that the case against Panayiotou would be heard before the end of next year. He said this delay could form part of a new bail application.

However, he conceded when Judge Smith asked whether the right to fair trial could be raised when no trial date had yet been set.

Battle over statements

Prosecutor Marius Stander also asked why the defence suddenly needed access to the statements when in both the initial bail application and the appeal, Panayiotou had sufficient information to respond to the evidence led in court relating to the statements. He said the defence was now suddenly claiming things had changed.

Stander pointed out that the investigating officer, Rhynhardt "Kanna" Swanepoel, had provided an affidavit to the court that clearly indicated that the case was still under investigation and that access to the docket as it currently stood would provide access to investigative techniques and sensitive information.

Stander said that the ongoing investigation into evidence allegedly destroyed by Panayiotou had led to the arrest of Nenembe and that the delays were definitely not due to the investigating officer dragging his feet.

Stander went on to say that none of the statements made by Coutts, Kapp or Swanepoel implicated Panayiotou directly in the murder of his wife, but were in fact supporting statements in relation to his motive for orchestrating the murder.

Beylefeld said this was the first time that the State had admitted this, which meant that the State’s case was not as strong as claimed, as this meant they only had Siyoli’s testimony directly linking Panayiotou to the crime.

Stander rebutted by pointing out that during the appeal, Judge Glen Goosen had indicated the state’s case rested on three legs: the testimony of Siyoli, the recordings of Panayiotou in the vehicle after Jayde’s murder, and the cellphone evidence.

Beyleveld also argued that the court could rule that privilege had been waived by the State when statements made by Coutts had been provided to her attorney, and that the documents should therefore be released.

Judgment reserved

He also requested that Stander assist in informing the court on whether the statements of the others had also been provided to their legal representatives.

Stander responded, saying that when the bail appeal was heard in Grahamstown in July, the argument was also raised by the defence that privilege had been waived and that Judge Goosen had indicated that this was not the case.

Stander also informed the court that, in any event, neither Kapp nor Swanepoel had had their statements handed over to their legal representatives.

Stander also pointed out that one of the reasons that bail had originally been denied was because of the possibility that Panayiotou would interfere with states witnesses ahead of his trial.

Judgment was reserved, but Judge Smith indicated he would make his findings available by Tuesday next week.

Panayiotou, Vumazonke and Nenembe are expected to appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.