Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko listen as judgment is handed down in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - The investigating team in the murder of Jayde Panayiotou were on Thursday, commended for their meticulous efforts in unmasking her murderers in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

"It behoves me to commend the investigating team for their meticulous efforts in unmasking Jayde’s murderers," Judge Dayalin Chetty said before convicting Christopher Panayiotou for the murder.

"The criticism directed at them and the prosecutor is unfounded."

Chetty said that the constant and repeated complaint by the defence that "this is a trial by ambush" was without any substance whatsoever and a deliberate ploy to obfuscate an issue. 

He criticised the defence's tactics used to attack the integrity of several witnesses, particularly that of Legal Aid attorney Johan van der Spuy.

"During the course of this trial his integrity was assailed by Mr [Defence Advocate Terry] Price. The besmirchment of his character is scandalous and merits this courts opprobrium," Chetty said.

He said that State Advocate Marius Stander was "duped" into believing that middleman turned Section 204 witness, Luthando Siyoni, would testify in conformity with the version chronicled in his statement to police. 

Siyoni's statement implicated his boss, Christopher Panayiotou, in Jayde's killing. 

He said that there was collusion between Siyoni, and his girlfriend Babalwa Breakfast who had been "suborned to recant her police statements". 

Chetty found that Siyoni's testimony on the stand was "a cocktail of lies, perjury and contrivances" designed to advance Panayiotou's defence. He further accepted their police statements as admissible evidence. 

"Whilst it is correct that Siyoni’s eye was swollen, I accept [Colonel Willie] Mayi’s testimony that the injury was sustained during the scuffle when Siyoni resisted being handcuffed," he said. 

Chetty also found that Siyoni's lawyer, Zolile Ngqeza, was party to the deception practiced on the prosecution. 

"Siyoni’s admission that [Panayiotou] had orchestrated Jayde’s murder finds further corroboration from the most unlikely source, [Panayiotou] himself." 

On his 31st birthday, Panayiotou was found guilty for the murder of his schoolteacher wife. He had hired Siyoni to recruit a hitman to kidnap and kill her in April 2015.

The State called it a contract killing with preparation, execution and cover up phases. 

Panayiotou was found not guilty on the remaining counts of conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition and defeating the ends of justice. He was visibly flushed and red in the face as judgement was handed down. 

Sinethemba Nenembe was found guilty on charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Zolani Sibeko was found guilty on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. 

Pre-sentencing proceedings take place on November 17.