Christopher Panayiotou and accomplices found guilty of murder
Thursday marked murder accused Christopher Panayiotou’s 31st birthday‚ but he will not have much cause to celebrate. In the Port Elizabeth High Court Panayiotou and Sinethemba Nemembe were found guilty of murder and Zolani Sibeko of conspiracy to murder.
The judgment proceedings under Judge Dayalin Chetty came to a close after 60 days of testimony in which 58 state witnesses were called.
Panayiotou was on trial for the murder of his wife Jayde‚ along with alleged hitman Sinethemba Nemembe and co-conspirator Zolani Sibeko.
He allegedly paid Luthando Siyoni‚ a bouncer at his nightclub Infinity‚ to hire Sinethemba Nemembe and Sizwezakhe Vumazonke for a hit on his wife. Siyoni turned state witness shortly after his arrest while Vumazonke died before the trial got underway.
School teacher Jayde Panayiotou‚ 29‚ was kidnapped outside her Kabega Park home on April 21 2015‚ before being driven to a bushy area in KwaNobuhle‚ where she was executed. The state conceded there was not enough evidence to prove which of the accused had pulled the trigger.
Her husband‚ a businessman‚ was arrested in May 2015 after police recorded a conversation between him and Siyoni‚ during which they seemingly discussed Jayde’s murder.
The short video clip was shown in court during the trial. While Siyoni is seated in the back of the vehicle and cannot be seen clearly‚ Panayiotou took centre stage in the front passenger seat of the car.
The two met at the Engen Garage in Algoa Park on April 29 2015‚ eight days after Jayde’s murder.
The video started with Panayiotou removing a battery and SIM card from a cellphone. He asked Siyoni : “Did these guys blit [talk]?”
Siyoni said “Sizwe (now deceased alleged hitman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke) is on the run”.
The chilling words‚ “it became a kidnapping and a murder instead of just making it a robbery outside the house”‚ drew gasps from the gallery in the High Court when the clip was shown.
In the recording‚ Panayiotou was heard telling Siyoni not to phone him again before handing him R4 550 in cash. He then told Siyoni to destroy his cellphone and SIM card.
When police arrested Siyoni shortly after Jayde’s murder they confiscated R31 300 in cash. At the time‚ Siyoni alleged this was his cut in the R80 000 Panayiotou paid him to organise hitmen to kidnap and kill his wife. The remaining cash was allegedly paid over to Vumazonke. Siyoni subsequently recanted this evidence.
During the trial‚ the court heard evidence that Jayde had been hit on the head and shoved in the boot of a car‚ her fingers crushed as the boot was slammed shut. Her abductors then drove to an open field in KwaNobuhle‚ where they shot her three times.
Her husband had been having an affair with a woman he had been dating even before his marriage‚ Chanelle Coutts.
In September 2014‚ Jayde wrote of her unhappiness in letters subsequently presented to court: “Where do I turn to? Nobody to talk to."
“I want a normal life. A husband that comes home at a normal time‚ has a normal job and makes time for his wife and family. Somebody that doesn’t hide me or cover up. Always respects and puts his wife first.
“(A husband who) can understand and see how having all the money in the world is not as important as building a life with his wife.”
WATCH: Highlights from the Panayiotou trial
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