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Panayiotou trial: Defence now wants to question Panayiotou’s alleged mistress

By Jesica Slabbert - Sep 27, 2017
Panayiotou trial: Defence now wants to question Panayiotou’s alleged mistress

The trial for disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman, Christopher Panayiotou, resumed in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday morning with Defence Advocate, Terry Price, calling his first witness for this leg of the trial.

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.

At the start of the day’s proceeding, Price stated that they would no longer be calling their original cell phone witness for the trial, as she has stated she would not like to testify for the defence.

However, he would present their email correspondence to the court.

Price then called his first witness, Selvan Gounden, to the stand.

Gounden is the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in Grahamstown, and is involved in entrapment procedures.

Price questioned whether any authorisation was obtained in order to perform the police sting operation that was used to collect key evidence for the State to use against Panayiotou.

Gounden stated that he was not the one, who gave permission for the sting operation nor did he have the authority to do so at the time.

State Prosecutor, Marius Stander, then asked that the witness stand down for the time being as he was not informed that Gounden would appear in the court and had only prepared for two other witnesses.

Stander stated that he would also need to obtain necessary delegation before proceeding with questioning Gounden as a witness since he is part of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Price objected, stating that Stander was well aware that Gounden was going to appear, and claimed that Stander was attempting to delay his questioning in order to gain evidence to discredit his witness.

Price then called his next witness, Anthony Emmett, the Operations Manager for OK Grocer in the Eastern Cape.

Emmett was questioned about the incident with former OK Grocer employee and State witness, Mawonga Ndedwa, where he was called in for a disciplinary hearing for the latter’s alleged theft of liquor at the store.

In October 2016, Ndedwa told the Port Elizabeth High Court how he had stumbled upon R30 000 in the store room of the OK Grocer owned by Panayiotou, who told him to pass the money on to Luthando Siyoni – the alleged middleman. The Panayiotou's no longer own the OK Grocers. 

Ndedwa also claimed to have been instructed by Panayiotou to “destroy” a cell phone used to arrange the murder of Jayde with Siyoni.

“Chris gave me R1 000 and told me to part ways with this phone. I’m curious so I asked why. Chris told me that [my] phone would cause police to be after me,” he said in his testimony.

He had worked for Panyiotou since 2012 as a merchandiser and told the court how Panayiotou was a good boss, someone who treated his staff very well.

Ndedwa said two weeks prior to Jayde’s disappearance, Panayiotou began borrowing his phone to make calls.

“Chris would come to me and borrow my phone, because he was my boss I would quickly give it to him. He would send me airtime,” he recalled.

He added he became aware that Panayiotou and Siyoni communicated via his cellphone.

“I became aware of this because Siyoni called me looking for Chris,” said Ndedwa.

A week before Jayde’s disappearance on April 21, he said that he stumbled upon R30 000 in a store room.

“I was opening the store. I went to fetch tools to fix a bread machine. When I reached the toolbox I saw a money bag. I looked inside and said yoh that’s a lot of money. I put the money bag back and I thought I must call Chris. Chris told me that the money amounted to R30 000 and I must give the money to Thando.

“Thando didn’t show up. So, I locked up and went home. The next day Chris told me he had given the money away,” Ndedwa told the court.

Ndedwa admitted to stealing 11 bottles of whisky, but said that he was fed up and wanted a “way out” of working at the OK Grocer.

Apparently, Emmett was in the office with Panayiotou’s mother and alleged mistress, Chanelle Coutts, who was also a Manager at the OK Grocer, when Ndedwa was informed of his dismissal.

Emmett recalled the meeting and noted a cell phone was brought up in the conversation.

He stated that Ndedwa then approached him outside while he was taking a smoke break and told him that; “They were going to pay”.

Emmett stated that he didn’t think much of the conversation as most people, who get dismissed tend to react in such a manner.

The Defence’s case is that it was 12 days after being fired that Ndedwa made his statement to Investigating Officer Kanna Swanepoel, who was looking to nail Panayiotou. 

After Emmett was dismissed, Price stated that he would like to recall a previous witness, Laurika Booi, who would only be available on Friday due to a prior engagement.  

Price also stated that he would like to call on Chanelle Coutts, Panayiotou’s alleged mistress, as a witness, but she would only be available on the 16th of October.

Trial continues.