Panayiotou Trial: Defence interrogates police evidence

Defence Advocate Terry Price, representing businessman Christopher Panayiotou who allegedly masterminded the murder of his wife, Jayde, on Tuesday interrogated the evidence given by Sergeant Thapelo Mabija.

The sergeant was behind the arrest of the alleged triggerman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke. While in custody at St Alabns Prison Vumazonke became ill and died. Details of toxicology tests are yet to be revealed.

Mabija was testifying in the Port Elizabeth High Court on the fifth day of the trial of Panayiotou and his two co-accused Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko.

The accused face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition. They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them.

Panayiotou faces an additional charge of defeating the ends of justice.

Mabija, who is from the police’s tracking team based in King Williams Town, told Prosecutor Marius Stander that on May 3 a team executed Vumazonke’s arrest near a tavern in Kwanobuhle. This after a failed attempt in Cape Town a few days before.

Mabija said police initially monitored Vumazonke’s movements at the tavern and only made the arrest when he moved towards a vehicle. “We introduced ourselves … he tried to run away, we grabbed him and handcuffed him.,”

Mabija said that at some point during the arrest Vumazonke bumped his head against the base of the vehicle door as he “was resisting arrest”.

He told the State that after Vumazonke’s arrest he was taken to Kabega Park Police Station, where the tracking team handed the matter over to the investigating team.

However, Price questioned Mabija on why he did not record these particular details in his statement.

He put it to the Sergeant that he was “lying” and raised further questions on why there was no record in his statement of Vumazonke being taken to two separate police stations in a short time frame of four hours.

“Perhaps you are not telling the truth because Vumazonke was taken to Uitenhage police station,” said Price.

Price went on to accuse the police officer of being part of a team who “beat Vumazonke up”.

Price also questioned if Vumazonke’s rights were officially read out to him at the time of arrest and requested to see Mabija’s police pocket book, but Mabija said the book had since gone missing.

The state alleges Panayiotou paid Luthando Siyoni, a bouncer from his Infinity nightclub, to hire hitman Vumazonke to kidnap and kill his schoolteacher wife, 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.

After being driven to a remote area on the outskirts of Kwanobuhle, where the murder was committed, the state alleges that Vumazonke fired two shots through Jayde’s back and a final shot through her head.

The trial continues.

– African News Agency (ANA)