Court debate on Panayiotou video

Christopher Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nemembe and Zolani Zibeko
Picture: Riaan Marais

State argues undercover recording crucial in the interest of justice

In the absence of anyone else in the vehicle where suspected wife killer Christopher Panayiotou and his former employee allegedly had an incriminating conversation, the prosecution believes there is no room for an allegation of influence.

While the defence wants to prevent the recording of that conversation from seeing the light of day, state advocate Marius Stander believes it is in the interest of justice for Judge Dayalin Chetty to have insight into exactly what was said.

He said Panayiotou’s actions before meeting with Luthando Siyoni after Jayde’s murder in April 2015 had been calculated.

Stander filed his written heads of argument with the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday, marking his final bid to have the undercover video recording admitted into evidence following a lengthy trial-within-a-trial.

In court papers he sets out exactly why he believes the recording should be ruled admissible.

Defence lawyers, who believe Siyoni was assaulted and forced to implicate his former boss, will now be given an opportunity to reply to the state’s submissions.

“How Panayiotou would have reacted if there was no alleged infringement of Siyoni’s rights is mere speculation. Maybe he would have decided to still meet with Siyoni.

“Even if the court were to find that there was indeed an infringement of Siyoni’s rights, it does not necessarily mean the evidence pertaining to the meeting must be excluded,” Stander said.

To date, Stander said, Panayiotou had not told the court why he in fact decided to meet with Siyoni.

Stander now wants the court to find that Siyoni sustained an injury to his left eye when he resisted arrest, was in no way assaulted by police, was fully advised of his constitutional rights, freely and voluntarily made a confession and initiated the idea to contact Panayiotou to substantiate his version of events.

Prior to Siyoni taking the stand towards the end of last year, much weight had been placed on his evidence – so much so that he was granted Section 204 status and placed in protective custody.

But now, after Siyoni did an about turn on the stand, denying any knowledge of Jayde’s murder and instead claiming assault, Stander wants Judge Chetty to disregard anything he said.

The defence called a handful of witnesses in the trial within-a-trial.

Most notably was Siyoni’s mother, Thembisa, who testified that her son’s jeans had been ripped when police brought him back to the house after taking him in for questioning.

She, however, could not explain why she could recall what jeans Siyoni had been wearing two years ago, but could not remember the colour of his top.

Furthermore, Stander said, she was mistaken about which side of his face was swollen from the alleged police torture.

He said the defence had also failed to prove the chain of custody on the said torn jeans which were then presented to the court.

Turning to the evidence of the investigating officer at the time, Constable Aldre Koen, Stander said while Koen had informed Panayiotou that he needed all Siyoni’s particulars to assist with the investigation, such as his address and telephone numbers, at no stage had Panayiotou mentioned that Siyoni had been trying to contact him.

Chetty will make his ruling on June 12.

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