Panayiotou pleads not guilty

WEB_PHOTO_CHRIS PANAYIOTOU_040515

Chris Panayiotou appears at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court on charges related to the kidnapping and murder of his wide Jade, on 4 May 2015.

PORT ELIZABETH - Businessman Christoper Panayiotou – who is accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife, Jayde – and his two co-accused Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

The accused face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition.

Panayiotou, who was arrested shortly after his wife’s murder more than a year ago, faces an additional charge of defeating the ends of justice.

State Prosecutor Marius Stander indicated that on a count of murder the men face a possibility of life imprisonment. On a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances they could each face up to 15 years behind bars.

The businessman is accused of orchestrating the murder and abduction of his school teacher wife, Jayde, in April last year.

It is alleged that he paid Luthando Siyoni, a bouncer from his Infinity nightclub, to hire hitman Vumazonke to kidnap and kill Jayde.

The State alleges that Nenembe assisted Vumazonke to kidnap and murder Jayde at the behest of her husband.

Siyoni has since turned States witness.

Cellphone plotting indicated Sibeko was with Nenembe and Vumazonke outside Panayiotou’s Stellen Glenn Complex in Kabega Park just five days before Jayde was abducted.

In reading out Panayiotou’s plea explanation, Advocate Terry Price said that his client’s right to a fair trial had been “trashed by the state”, by way of police obtaining evidence “unlawfully” through Siyoni.

Price is requesting a trial within a trial to take place.

“Siyoni was assaulted and arrested unlawfully, therefor all the evidence given by Siyoni is inadmissible and should not be used by this court,” said Price.

He said that Siyoni had obtained a swollen left eye after his arrest and his assault was confirmed by at least four people.

Price took further aim at Siyoni and said that the bouncer had implicated Panayiotou with the help of Investigating Officer Kanna Swannapoel. He said that Siyoni had given two different statements to police.

In summary Price claimed that the State had “trashed the constitution” and brought the South African criminal justice system into disrepute by “pressurising witnesses”.

The trial, which is being attended by significant numbers of family members of the accused and of the deceased, continues.

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