Port Elizabeth – Christopher Panayiotou was on Thursday found guilty of the murder of his school teacher wife Jayde at the Port Elizabeth High Court.
His co-accused Sinethemba Nenembe was found guilty of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstance while Zolani Sibeko was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
The trio faced charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlicensed possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Panayiotou faced an additional charge of defeating the ends of justice, but was found not guilty on all other counts.
During the lengthy the State argued that Jayde’s murder was a “contract killing” which included three stages, the preparation, execution and cover up of the killing.
The State alleged that Panayiotou had Jayde killed because he could no longer afford to keep his mistress, Chanelle Coutts and wife happy.
The State alleges that Nenembe assisted Vumazonke to kidnap and murder the teacher at the behest of her husband. Vumazonke has since died. Sibeko was named as the person who was allegedly asked to source a firearm for Jayde’s killing.
Panayiotou was arrested in May 2015‚ after police recorded a conversation between him and Siyoni. Siyoni was allegedly asked by his boss to recruit a hitman, Sizwe Vumazonke, to kidnap and kill the schoolteacher.
Judge Dayalin Chetty said that the undercover police video found Panayiotou to be complicit in his wife Jayde's murder.
Dealing with the trial-within-a-trial, Chetty gave reasons why he ruled the audio video recording admissible. He said to have excluded the video as evidence would have not been in the interests of justice.
Chetty found that Panayiotou was not forced to meet Siyoni. "Fact that this was induced by police is irrelevant."
He further found that police did not act in bad faith when setting up the undercover operation and authorisation from the Director of Public Prosecution was not needed.
Chetty was scathing towards Siyoni who Chetty found was never beaten up by police, adding that Siyoni's evidence was fabricated and was to be rejected.
He said that Siyoni acted as a willing participant in the undercover police operation. He stated that Panayiotou had met with Siyoni out of his own accord and for his own agenda.
Chetty said Siyoni's testimony on the stand was fabricated to suit Panayiotou's defence. From the video Chetty said that it was clear that Panayiotou knew that the alleged hitman had not acted alone.
The judge said what was "telling" was the words of Panayiotou to Siyoni in the car: "I told you to let them do it outside the house and take the bags and the watch ..."
He further said the fact Jayde's body was found with her jewellery showed that Panayiotou had intricate knowledge of the alleged hit.
Chetty also discarded testimony from Babalwa Breakfast, Siyoni's girlfriend.
In her statement to police Breakfast implicated Panayiotou and Siyoni, but she later recanted her version, denying the entirety of her statement.
"The attention to detail in Babalwa Breakfast's statement [show] that it was the truth," said Chetty.
The trial against Panayiotou, Nenembe and Sibeko has run for a period of 62 days, in a space of over a year.
Throughout the trial Panayiotou has shown absolutely no emotion, remaining brass faced even when graphic images of Jayde’s bloody body was displayed on court projectors.