Port Elizabeth - The trial against murder accused Christopher Panayiotou is drawing to a close with the prosecution expected to present closing arguments in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday.
The businessman is charged alongside Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko with conspiring to kidnap, rob, and murder school teacher Jayde Panayiotou on April 21, 2015.
The murder trial kicked off over year ago in October 2016. State advocate Marius Stander called more than 40 witnesses in the trial which is being heard before Eastern Cape Judge Dayalin Chetty.
According to the State, Panayiotou had his wife killed because he could no longer afford to maintain both his wife and mistress, Chanelle Coutts. The State alleges that Panayiotou was in financial difficulty so he decided to have Jayde killed, not to gain financially, but to curtail his ever-increasing debt.
Arguably the most damning evidence the State presented before court was a secret video where Panayiotou is seen and heard chatting to self-confessed middleman Luthando Siyoni. The airing of the video at court was subject to a trial-within-a-trial and was subsequently ruled admissible.
In the undercover sting operation Panayiotou allegedly paid Siyoni R4,550 and seemingly implicates himself in his wife's murder. Panayiotou is accused of paying Siyoni, a bouncer from his Infinity nightclub, to hire Sizwe Vumazonke to kidnap and kill Jayde.
According to Siyoni's confession, it was agreed that Panayiotou would pay R80,000, of which Siyoni would get R30,000 and Vumazonke the rest. Siyoni has since recanted his confession and claims police beat him up and forced him to implicate his former boss.
The school teacher was abducted while waiting for a lift to work and subsequently murdered on the outskirts of Kwanobuhle, on the way to Uitenhage.
The State alleges that Nenembe assisted Vumazonke to kidnap and murder the teacher at the behest of her husband. Vumazonke has since died. Sibeko has been named as the person who was allegedly asked to source a firearm for Jayde’s killing. The charges against the three men include conspiracy to commit murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, murder and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. Panayiotou faces an additional charge of obstructing the course of justice.