Family and friends also speculate on reasons for Jayde’s murder
Recorded conversations between family and friends of Christopher Panayiotou in the days following his arrest for his wife, Jayde’s, murder, revolved around the reasons he might have killed her. The secret recordings, in which his father, Costa, is heard speculating that the couple might have had a fight, and a family friend discusses the murder accused’s financial situation, were heard in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday.
In the recordings, reference is also made to a mystery woman named “Jenny”, whom the Panayiotous fought hard to “get rid of”.
But the conversations between April 29 and May 1 last year also tell a sad story of a father’s disapproval and how Christopher was allegedly forced to marry the woman he is now accused of having killed.
A subdued Costa sat in the front row of the gallery yesterday as intimate details of his strained relationship with his son were revealed.
Christopher, 30, sat just metres from him in the dock.
State advocate Marius Stander read extracts of the recordings – used earlier in the week to discredit Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen – as the seasoned policeman and family friend of the Panayiotous testified for the third day.
The 16-year friendship came to an abrupt end shortly after the recordings were made.
It has not been revealed yet who secretly recorded them.
Eksteen said he had been unaware that his conversations were being recorded and had spoken candidly about the arrest of alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni.
While Stander questioned the legality of the recordings, Judge Dayalin Chetty said he would rule on their admissibility at a later stage.
Christopher was arrested on April 29 last year, just eight days after Jayde’s kidnapping and murder, following a sting operation where he allegedly implicated himself.
Eksteen, who formed part of the investigating team, went that night to the Panayiotou family home in Uitenhage.
Costa, trying to make sense of what had just happened, said the only thing he could think of was that Christopher and Jayde might have had a fight.
“But Christopher doesn’t even have a gun … Why, why would he kill her?” he said.
Costa said further: “I’m telling you, I’m not getting any blame for this, even if Chris is found guilty, he will feel more guilt than me.”
Turning to a recording from May 1, where Eksteen met the family at a restaurant, Stander asked him to put a conversation he had had with a man by the name of Angelo into context.
Eksteen, who is attached to the Organised Crime Unit, said Angelo had offended him by asking him if he was recording their conversation.
“I walked away … we were friends. My intention was never to damage the family,” he said.
In a separate conversation later between Eksteen and family friend Phillip Vosloo, the two discussed Christopher’s affair with OK Grocer manager Chanelle Coutts and how this had put a strain on his relationship with his dad.
Vosloo remarked that he had, for years, been the peacemaker between the two.
“There was never a good bond between Costa and Chris, they were always fighting,” he said in the recording.
He said the last family fight had been when Costa tried to establish if his son had taken a trip to East London with Coutts.
Vosloo said Costa and Christopher fought constantly about the business and the way it was run.
One of Christopher’s ambitions was apparently to work his father out of the business.
“Costa forced him to get married,” Vosloo said, describing Coutts as submissive and Jayde as stubborn. Eksteen agreed. The conversation also turned to the woman named Jenny. “You see, first it was Jenny … Then they got rid of Jenny with one hell of a struggle.”
Vosloo said Jayde’s parents had paid the transfer costs of the couple’s Lovemore Heights home because the bank was reluctant to lend them money. Costa did not know what his son earned. The trial continues.