Change of plan on Siyoni testimony catches defence on wrong foot

Luthando Siyoni is expected to finally take the stand on Friday morning Picture: Brian Witbooi
Alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni is expected to finally take the stand on Friday morning

A bouncer who claims he acted as the middleman between alleged wife-killer Christopher Panayiotou and the hit men will take the stand today, after the defence suffered a major blow to its case yesterday.

State advocate Marius Stander turned the tables on Panayiotou’s counsel as they prepped for a trial-within-a-trial with regards to Luthando Siyoni’s testimony.

Instead, Stander told the Port Elizabeth High Court he had been up all night studying reported case law and could not find anything to support the defence’s submissions that a Section 204 witness’s testimony fell within the ambit of a trial-within-a-trial.

The change of plan saw a fuming Advocate Terry Price SC accusing the state of again ambushing him.

Price had said from the onset he would call for a trial-within-a-trial based on the belief that Siyoni, 31, an employee of Panayiotou’s at the time, was assaulted by police and forced to implicate the 30-year-old businessman.

He then hoped to have all evidence that emerged from that point ruled inadmissible based on the fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine.

If Price had succeeded in his bid, it is likely the court would never have heard Siyoni’s version about how Panayiotou allegedly approached him to have his wife, Jayde, 29, murdered on April 21 last year.

But Judge Dayalin Chetty, agreeing with Stander, said he had been perturbed from the onset about the possibility of a trial-within-a-trial to deal with the testimony of a Section 204 witness – something the state had agreed to until yesterday.

Stander said: “I could not find one case where a court needed to go into a trial-within-a-trial to decide on the admissibility of a Section 204 witness’s testimony.”

He said the question about whether or not Siyoni had been assaulted needed to be dealt with in the main trial.

“This witness has a right to be heard by this court . . . and it is this court that must decide whether he is granted indemnity or not.”

Stander said he was trying to avoid a situation in which Siyoni never had an opportunity to testify on the merits of the case.

Price said Siyoni would confirm to the court he had been assaulted.

“I am just worried that a message will be sent out that the police can beat up an accused person to get them to confess,” he said.

“I am worried the court will be fed evidence that is patently inadmissible.

“I don’t want the horrible comments to be heard.”

Chetty concluded that he would hear Siyoni’s evidence and reserve the right to exclude certain evidence at a later stage.

The trial suffered a further delay in the afternoon when Siyoni’s attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, said he needed certain documentation from the state before Siyoni took the stand.

The case was postponed to today, when Siyoni will finally testify.


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