Panayiotou in new bid for freedom

Christopher Panayiotou has been sentenced to life in jail
File picture: Eugene Coetzee

Jayde ‘middleman’ Siyoni disappears

As convicted wife killer Christopher Panayiotou made another bid for freedom yesterday, the suspected middleman in the murder of Jayde is in the wind.

Panayiotou’s defence team filed an application for leave to appeal against his conviction of murder at the same time specialist police unit The Hawks confirmed that Luthando Siyoni was nowhere to be found.

Panayiotou was convicted of Jayde’s murder on November 2 – the same day that Judge Dayalin Chetty found the man involved in securing an assassin for Panayiotou to be a liar and a perjurer who most likely accepted a bribe to change his testimony in court.

It quickly became clear then that Siyoni would more than likely have his Section 204 state witness status revoked and face standing trial for murder.

Hawks Eastern Cape spokeswoman Captain Anelisa Feni said a warrant of arrest for Siyoni had been issued last week after he failed to appear in court and he had not been found since.

“The Serious Organised Crime unit of The Hawks is searching for Luthando Siyoni,” Feni said.

She confirmed that Siyoni faced a charge of murder and, once found, would be hauled off to court.

As a result, it is possible that Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast – who was also found to have lied on the stand – could be tried as his co-accused. However, Feni said yesterday no warrant of arrest for Breakfast had been issued.

Siyoni, 37, a bouncer at Panayiotou’s Infinity nightclub, was the first to be arrested in connection with the April 2015 murder of Jayde, 29, after police received a tip-off.

He quickly confessed and details of the kidnapping and murder were made in statements obtained from both him and Breakfast.

But when the trial kicked off last year, he denied his involvement in arranging hitmen and claimed he had been tortured and forced to implicate his former boss.

Weekend Post yesterday visited the premises where Siyoni’s gym is located in Zwide, but it was locked up.

Contacted on a number listed on a sign outside the gym, a man who answered the call but did not give his name said he had not seen Siyoni for a week. Siyoni’s attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, said he could not comment as he was not even aware that an arrest warrant had been issued.

Meanwhile, Panayiotou’s advocate, Terry Price, filed the appeal against his client’s murder conviction in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday.

Saying the trial had been hugely biased in favour of the state, the appeal suggested that Chetty had been biased in favour of the prosecution.

In his argument, Price said: “A holistic reading of the judgment and a thorough perusal of the court record and the exhibits must lead to the conclusion by a court of appeal that the learned judge did not conduct the trial fairly, objectively or professionally throughout.”

Price said an appeal court would further find there was more than enough evidence to support a finding that the judge had appeared to be siding with the prosecution and the police throughout the trial and in every aspect of the evidence placed before him.

The court papers filed on behalf of Panayiotou, who is serving out his sentence at St Albans prison, claim that Chetty erred several times in considering the evidence brought before the court.

Price claims the evidence of police officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel was mainly hearsay. He also disputes aspects of Siyoni’s statements made to police after he was arrested.

This includes evidence by Siyoni that an alleged R80 000 was paid by Panayiotou to have his wife killed.

This amount was mentioned on three different occasions through Siyoni’s statements and other evidence before court.

“The honourable court in fact has [three] contradictory versions before it of how R80 000 was allegedly paid by the applicant to Siyoni.”

Price also argued that evidence in Siyoni’s statement as a Section 204 witness should be inadmissible as Siyoni had not been properly warned in terms of being a state witness, and that at the time of making the statement he was still an accused person.

“. . . and therefore . . . the statement was not admissible in court against his co-accused.”

Price further argued the court had flouted the relevance of information supplied when it came to witness testimony in that Chetty had failed to consider certain aspects of the testimony given by at least 11 defence witnesses.

This included part of the testimony of Panayiotou’s mistress, Chanelle Coutts.

“She [Coutts] testified that she was abominably treated by the prosecutor and Captain Swanepoel in that they were rude and abusive to her and probably most importantly, legally speaking, she was told that if she was not going to testify for the state, she would have to give an undertaking not to testify for the defence.”

This, argued Price, amounted to defeating the ends of justice by Stander and Swanepoel.

Price also accused Chetty of using “derogatory, humiliating, insulting and frankly defamatory adjectives” directed at the defence council when delivering judgment.

In the lengthy appeal, Price detailed how the court had also failed to discipline people in the court who allegedly made snide comments while court was in session.

Price claimed Chetty had ignored the defence’s objections “while allowing the bad behaviour to continue, thus cementing the applicant’s belief that the honourable court was biased against him”.

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