The Port Elizabeth High Court was packed on Monday morning as the investigating officer in the Jayde Panayiotou murder case took to the stand.
Captain Kanna Swanepoel, who became the investigating officer three days after Jayde, 29, was murdered on April 21 2015, spent the morning testifying about several phone calls made to Christopher Panayiotou, 30.
The calls – which led to a sting operation and then Panayiotou’s arrest a week after the murder – were made by alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni, who initially confessed to his part in the murder, allegedly orchestrated by Panayiotou.
Siyoni later recanted his statement.
Swanepoel said 13 phone calls were made to Panayiotou on April 28 and one SMS was sent.
“The phone was answered six times. On one occasion [a friend] Donovan Vosloo answered Panayiotou’s phone,” he said.
“Those conversations did not get very far. Basically, Panayiotou said he was too busy to speak to Siyoni now.”
The investigating team, having had no luck, took a break to allow Siyoni to eat and rest and for them to “discuss a way forward”.
Siyoni then received four calls which went to voicemail. Two calls were from Panayiotou’s number and another number, unknown to them at that stage. The number was later linked to a phone which was seized from Panayiotou’s car.
“Those calls indicated an urgency to me so I arranged for Siyoni to be fetched again from Kabega Park police station,” Swanepoel said.
The plan started falling into place after Panayiotou finally spoke to Siyoni and agreed to a meeting, which eventually took place at the Engen filling station in Algoa Park.
It was after this meeting – and after Swanepoel consulted with two advocates – that he decided to arrest Panayiotou at his parents’ Uitenhage house.
“There were many people at the house. [Former family friend Leon] Eksteen went to fetch Panayiotou. Panayiotou’s dad, Costa, came out. We told him why we were there,” Swanepoel said.
“Costa fetched Panayiotou. I introduced myself and told him I was arresting him for murder. I then informed him of his rights. When asked if he needed an attorney, he responded that his family would decide. He made use of his right to remain silent.”
The trial continues.