Port Elizabeth - A business manager from Nedbank appeared to be feeling the heat on Wednesday, after murder accused Christopher Panayiotou’s lawyers pushed her to confirm she had provided the businessman with confidential information on his wife’s bank account the day she went missing.
Estelle Burger, who oversaw the Panayiotou business finances, testified in the Port Elizabeth High Court on the sixth day of the trial against Panayiotou and his two co-accused, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko. They are accused of killing Panayiotou’s wife Jade in April 2015.
Burger’s testimony related to the time in which Jayde’s family realised money had been withdrawn from her Nedbank account on the day she disappeared. The withdrawal was later traced to an ATM in Kwanobuhle near Uitenhage.
Defence advocate Terry Price claimed Panayiotou had in his possession Jayde’s pin and username details to log into Jayde’s internet banking account. The defence claimed that Burger felt sorry for Panayiotou and “out of the kindness of her heart” went ahead and gave him the information anyway.
At one point, court proceedings had to be adjourned in order for Burger to compose herself.
On several occasions she disputed ever giving Panayiotou information arguing that she was not authorised to do so. Burger later conceded to the defence that she would “look into it” and try to establish the information the businessman needed.
It emerged that Burger had called the businessman six times on the day Jayde disappeared. A total of 14 calls were recorded between Burger and Panayiotou on April 21 last year.
“The reason I called him was because I wanted to find out if Jayde had been found,” she said.
Price hit back, saying: “You [Burger] did give Christopher the information and he is grateful but you are avoiding the question because you don’t want to get in trouble with the bank.”
“Christopher will tell this court if he testifies, he was trying to persuade you to give that information so he could find Jayde.”
Burger told the court that on the night of the April 21, she received a phone call from Phillip Vosloo, an ex-colleague, requesting that she change Jayde’s cell phone banking notifications to go through to Christopher’s phone.
She said she was not authorised to make that change but discovered at work the next morning that the bank had effected an alteration on Jayde’s notifications.
The State alleges Panayiotou paid Luthando Siyoni, a bouncer from his Infinity nightclub, to hire hitman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke to kidnap and kill his schoolteacher wife, Jayde.
The State also alleges that Nenembe assisted Vumazonke to kidnap and murder Jayde at the behest of her husband. Siyoni has since turned State witness and Vumazonke passed away while in custody at St Albans Prison.
After being driven to a remote area on the outskirts of Kwanobuhle, where the alleged murder was committed, the State alleges that Vumazonke fired two shots which hit Jayde in the back and a final shot through her head.
Sibeko was the last person to be arrested, 15 months after the murder. He has apparently been linked to the crime through cellphone mapping, which allegedly shows him being present outside Jayde’s Stellen Glen complex in the days before her murder. However, his alleged role in the events leading up to the murder are still unclear.
The trial continues on Thursday.