Ricochet News

Panayiotou's alleged mistress takes the stand in his defence

By Jesica Slabbert - Oct 16, 2017
Panayiotou's alleged mistress takes the stand in his defence

It was a dramatic day in the Port Elizabeth High Court as Christopher Panayiotou's alleged mistress, Chanelle Coutts, took to the stand in defence of the disgraced Port Elizabeth businessman.

Coutts was the Manager at the OK Grocer in Algoa Park that was owned by the Panayiotou family, at the time of that Panayiotou's wife, Jayde, was murdered in April 2015. The family has since been bought out and the store changed into a Spar.

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

Among the State's arguments is that Panayiotou could not afford the financial implications of keeping Jayde and Coutts, hence he hired Nenembe, Sibeko and alleged hitman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, to kill Jayde.

Vumazonke died at the St Albans Prison after a short illness before the start of the trial.

Since the revelation of their alleged romance in court, Coutts had tried to keep a low profile throughout the trial.

She was first believed to be a witness for the State, but was never called on to take the stand and implicate Panayiotou. The defence then requested that Coutts testify for them, and were only recently able to make contact with her.

The State alleges that Panayiotou and Coutts were having an affair even before he married Jayde. She had been working at the then OK Grocer since 2004 before being promoted to the position of Manageress in 2015.

Defence Advocate Terry Price on Monday questioned Coutts on the night she was questioned by the police after Jayde's murder.

Coutts said that police officers came to the OK Grocer during her shift and stated that they wanted to question her and they they did not allow her to finish her shift as she was asked to accompany them immediately.

She said that she was then taken to a house in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth, where she was questioned.

Coutts told the court that she was held there for three hours and felt very intimidated. She claims that she was then shown two statements, one handwritten and on typed out.

She told the court that she was not happy with the typed out copy because there was information in there that she did not provide.

Pressure

Coutts stated that she has to date been put under a lot of pressure by the police and the media since ther alleged affair with Panayiotou became public knowledge.  She stated that she has been accused of covering for Panayiotou - and was even questioned if she was pregnant and used drugs.

She stated that she went to a doctor to have a blood test done to prove she wasn’t pregnant and felt humiliated by the police.

Price then asked about a sum of R17 000 that she received from Panayiotou.

Coutts stated that the money was just a deposit to help her buy her new car, which she is still paying off. She said that the money was a bonus for her 10 years of service at the OK Grocer.

When State Prosecutor Marius Stander began his cross-examination, he asked whether the R17 000 bonus was reflected in the books of OK Grocer.

Coutts said that it was not and quickly stated that it would reflect in Panayiotou’s personal account.

Stander then told the court that the amount was then not a bonus - otherwise it would have reflected in the books.

Stander then questioned Coutts on the day that Panayiotou wiped her and her friends phone. Coutts stated that she was told by her friend that there were rumours going around the school where Jayde worked about her affair with Panayiotou.

After hearing this Coutts said that Panayiotou wiped her phone.

She said that she and Panayiotou had decided to be honest about the fact that they were having an affair, but did not want the messages between them to be made public.

The trial continues.