Curiosity fills high court gallery for Panayiotou murder trial

The gallery has been packed every day since the Panayiotou murder trial started Picture: Eugene Coetzee
The gallery has been packed every day since the Panayiotou murder trial started
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

As anticipated, the Jayde Panayiotou murder trial has been closely followed by the public and attracted a crowd of onlookers to the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Seated in the public gallery and spread out among the family members and friends of both the victim and the accused, these observers have immersed themselves in the tragedy and drama as it all unfolds.

Some admit to just being curious, while others say they feel they can identify with aspects of the case.

For Carole Law, 73, both are true.

“Many people will not admit it, but I will be honest. I am nosy,” she said.

“From day one, since Jayde disappeared, I have been fascinated by this case.

“I have wanted to come to court for some time, and what’s better than a murder case like this one?

“I read in the paper that the case was starting and thought to myself: I am retired, I have the time, so why not go and watch? And here I am.”

Apart from her self-confessed “nosiness”, Law said the case also “hit home” because of her own history of abusive relationships.

Seated in the row behind her, Desmond Johnson, 71, said his love of crime novels had prompted him to take a taxi daily from his home in Korsten to the high court in Bird Street.

Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nemembe and Zolani Zibeko have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jayde Panayiotou Picture: Riaan Marais
Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nemembe and Zolani Zibeko have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jayde Panayiotou
Picture: Riaan Marais

“On the first day of the trial I read the newspaper early that morning. Something about the case just did not make sense to me. So I quickly hopped into a taxi and made my way to court so that I could see what happens for myself,” Johnson said.

He has even set aside the home renovation project he is usually busy with to dedicate his time to figuring out the Panayiotou trial.

Also in the public gallery, Albert van Rensburg, 33, has come from Cape Town to visit his sick grandfather and spends most of his time between visiting hours soaking up the drama of the trial.

“Before I came to Port Elizabeth I was following the case on television and online, and when I decided to come down to Port Elizabeth I knew I would come to court to see the trial for myself,” Van Rensburg said.

“This is the closest I will be to something like the Oscar Pistorius case.

“The case intrigues me so much, and I will be here every chance I get while I am still here in Port Elizabeth.”

Outside the court, during the daily lunch adjournment, Newton Park mechanic Tiaan Ehlers, 44, phones his wife to update her on what the latest witness said.

“I am on leave for two weeks, so I set a couple of days aside to come and watch the trial,” he said.

“My wife is so upset that she cannot be here too that I have to update her every chance I get.”

Ehlers said he had no idea what to make of the case yet, but felt very sorry for all the families involved, especially loved ones who had to sit and listen to the horrifying details as they came out in court.

“It cannot be easy for these families. I pray for them every night,” Ehlers said.

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