Panayiotou middle-man still on the run

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The murder trial of Port Elizabeth businessman, Christopher Panayiotou dominated headlines 

He orchestrated the murder of his wife, Jayde, by paying an employee R75 000 to source a hitmen.

He’s been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Port Elizabeth High Court, along with co-accused, Sinethemba Nenenembe.

Zolani Sibeko will also serve a long jail term.

The middle-man in the matter, Luthando Siyoni, has also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, but is still on the run.

Jayde Panayiotou went missing on April 21, 2015.

She was abducted outside her Stellen Glen Complex in Kabega Park while waiting for her lift.

The teacher at Riebeek Girls College in Uitenhage never made it to school that morning.

It was later established that her bank card was used to withdraw money at an ATM in Kwanobhule near Uitenhage.

A massive search was then launched online by her family and friends. Her body with gunshot wounds was found in the veld, the next day.

Her husband presented an emotional eulogy at her funeral, which he copied from the Internet.

He was arrested the next day. His co-accused, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, Sinetemba Nenembe and Xolani Sibkeo were also apprehended.

Vumazonkhe, who was the alleged triggerman, died while in custody.

The two year trial unraveled Panayiotou’s plot to kill his wife.

Several twists prolonged the court case. Seventy witnesses were called to testify.

In his judgement, Judge Dayalin Chetty called the murder calculating and cruel.

“It was common cause that gun powder residue was discovered on the decease hand and the infringe can be properly made that in her final moments Jayde’s outstretched hands was asking for mercy, that act elicited a bullet to her head. The medical and ballistic finds compel the conclusion that this was a execution style murder.”

The middle-man, Luthando Siyoni, played a key role in the murder and was paid for his part.

But he turned state witness by helping the investigating team to trap Panayiotou.

On the night of Jayde’s murder, Panayiotou is implicated in a police-video handing over the remainder of the money that was meant for the hitmen.

It took place in a vehicle equipped with audio and video devices.

All the evidence culminated in the guilty verdict by Judge Chetty.

“I am satisfied that the evidence of the accused on the charges specified here under beyond any reasonable doubt accused no one is found guilty of murder, on count 4, and not guilty on the remaining counts, accuse no 3 is found guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances on count two, guilty of murder on count four, and not guilty on the remaining counts, accused no 4 is found is guilty of conspiracy to murder on count one and not guilty of the remaining counts.”

It was an emotional day in court for both families. The accused were also tense while Judge Chetty read out the sentences. Chetty said Panayiotou took no responsibility for the murder of his wife since the start of trial, and his attitude did not show remorse.

He told the court that the contract killing and the patience and planning that went into the murder were unbelievable.

The judge said the participation of Nenembe and Sibeko was because of their love for money, and they shared in the blood money.

“Jayde was blissfully unaware that the man she shared a bed with had set in motion a process which would ultimately lead to her death. When the video was played and the involvement of the murder exposed he remained nonchalant, maybe to him it was just business this crime. In the result therefore the accused are sentenced as follows: on count one, conspiracy to murder, accused no four is sentenced to 15 years imprisonment; on count two, robbery with aggravating circumstances, accused no three is sentenced to life.”

The Panayiotou family cried and were comforting each other, while Jayde’s family, the Inggs, were jubilant about the sentence, but too emotional to speak.

“Jayde can’t come back but the justice has been done.  I am very happy,” says a family member.

This was the last chapter of a long and painful process.

The Inggs family celebrated their daughter Toni’s wedding the next day, without having Jayde as a bridesmaid.  This sentence was a victory for the state, says Regional NPA spoksperson Tsepo Ndwalaza.

“This will bring closure to the family of Jayde and a lot of people who have been watching this case very closely and we believe that our prosecutors and the team and the investigating team have done a lot of work; it’s been a long and winding road but we believe everybody will sleep well.”

But the matter is not done yet, Siyoni, when captured, will stand trial for murder, robbery and defeating the ends of justice.

Captain Anelisa Feni from the Hawks says a warrant of arrest has been issued.

“If anyone knows his whereabouts, please contact the investigating officer Captain Swanepoel on 082 319 8712.”

Defence advocate Terry Price will apply for leave to appeal the case on merits regarding the verdict in January.