The state’s star witness made damning allegations in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday, accusing the police and prosecution of playing dirty.
Luthando Siyoni, who initially confessed to helping Christopher Panayiotou orchestrate the murder of his wife, Jayde, told a stunned court yesterday the state had gone to extraordinary lengths to get him to say exactly what they wanted to hear.
But Siyoni stuck to his guns about one thing – he claimed Panayiotou, 30, had given him R80 000 to pay Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 36, for the hit.
While he now denies helping Panayiotou to find hitmen in April last year, Siyoni said he had become aware of the plot to kill Jayde, 29, only after her death.
Taking the stand for the sixth day yesterday, Siyoni went from refusing to answer questions from state advocate Marius Stander, to telling Panayiotou’s lawyers just what they needed to build their defence.
Questioned by advocate Terry Price SC, Siyoni said that before taking the stand for the first time on Friday last week, he had told Stander and his attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, he would deviate from his statement and tell the court that police had assaulted him.
He said Stander and investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel had been aware of his plans “to tell the truth” as far back as September – a month before the trial kicked off.
A date was even set down in the High Court for Siyoni’s Section 204 status to be revoked, but Ngqeza came to some sort of agreement with the state.
Towards the end of September, a meeting was held between Siyoni, Stander, Ngqeza and Siyoni’s mother and cousin.
“I was told if I don’t stick to my statement I will stand trial as an accused. My mother and cousin left the meeting crying.”
Siyoni said his family had been told that should he not testify as a Section 204 witness, he would face life in prison.
“My mom begged me to testify for the state, but I said I am not prepared to lie.”
Siyoni also claimed the underhanded tactics from the police had started while he was being held in protective custody at the Humewood police station.
At Panayiotou’s bail application, Swanepoel made a statement on Siyoni’s behalf, claiming the injuries he sustained were the result of a “scuffle” with police when he resisted arrest. Siyoni also alleged that: ý He was never warned of his rights or given access to medical treatment after the assault;
- A Legal Aid SA advocate was appointed to him, despite him asking for a private attorney;
- For nearly two days in custody he was not given any food or water and did not sleep;
- During the assault, police ripped his pants to look at his buttocks; and
- Swanepoel told him he needed to be in protective custody because Panayiotou wanted to kill him.
Price said the police were “cold-hearted” enough to get Siyoni to phone Panayiotou – to try to entrap him – an hour after he buried his wife.