With more than 40 witnesses called over 54 days, the state finally closed its case yesterday in what has arguably been one of the most talked about murder trials in Port Elizabeth to date.
The final witness to be called by the prosecution in the Jayde Panayiotou murder case, the Organised Crime Unit’s Warrant Officer Shane Bosch, tied up loose ends for the state yesterday, before prosecutor Marius Stander surprised counsel by closing his case.
The defence had expected investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel to step into the witness box for a second time.
Bosch, who was behind the arrest of businessman Christopher Panayiotou’s co-accused, Zolani Sibeko, said while Sibeko’s SIM card was not Rica’d in his name, this was not at all uncommon.
Panayiotou, 30, is accused of hiring hitmen to kill his wife in April 2015.
Under cross-examination by Sibeko’s defence attorney, Peter Daubermann, Bosch said people involved in criminal activity regularly changed their cellphone numbers.
An already Rica’d SIM, for example, could be bought on the streets for R5, he said.
Sibeko was the final suspect arrested 15 months after Jayde’s murder when he was connected to the crime through cellphone plotting.
His handset was reportedly placed near the Uitenhage teacher’s residence just days before she was kidnapped and shot.
Daubermann also presented his own map to the court yesterday, to show how Sibeko would have travelled along Cape Road, and in close proximity to the Panayiotou couple’s Kabega Park complex, when travelling to and from his parental home in Greenbushes.
While defence Advocate Terry Price SC, for Panayiotou, is expected to call his first set of witnesses tomorrow, Daubermann is considering an application in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act for the early acquittal of Sibeko and alleged hitman Sinethemba Nemembe due to a weak state case.
He told Judge Dayalin Chetty he did not believe a case had been made for his clients to answer and should he not bring the application for discharge, he may simply close his case without calling any witnesses and argue for a not guilty verdict at the finalisation of the trial.
Here are some of the biggest moments in the trial so far:
- An incriminating sting video of Panayiotou talking to self-confessed “middleman” Luthando Siyoni following the murder went viral after Chetty found it to be admissible;
- Siyoni, who initially confessed to involvement in planning the murder, backtracked on his statements to deny any involvement;
- Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, was arrested for perjury after she, too, deviated from her statement; and
- Cellphone sleuth Thereza Botha, who relied on data analysis to connect the dots between the accused, said the handset of Panayiotou’s mistress, Chanelle Coutts, contacted one of the men initially approached to commit the murder a staggering 19 times.