Prosecutor Marius Stander Picture: Eugene Coetzee
Prosecutor Marius Stander
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

Prosecutor Marius Stander has telltale courtroom characteristics.

When he becomes excited during cross-examination, he tugs on his robe before rubbing his hands together.

His record speaks for itself and the Panayiotou murder trial is no different.

He has been involved from the get-go, working tirelessly in the days leading to a sting operation which saw the businessman nabbed for his wife’s murder, and in the countless applications thereafter he has managed to keep Christopher Panayiotou behind bars for well over a year.

At times, Stander pushed the limits, encroaching on unfamiliar territory as he argued civil applications against some of the top silks in the country retained by the Panayiotou family.

And, for the most part, Stander came out on top.

In a case which also relied heavily on circumstantial evidence, finalised in front of Judge Dayalin Chetty last month, Stander secured life sentences for a hardened criminal and his two hitmen who executed a state witness in July.

A local boytjie, Stander matriculated from Andrew Rabie High School before obtaining his LLB from the now-Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

He joined the district division of the National Prosecuting Authority in Uitenhage in 1993. By 1994, he had worked his way up to the regional court division.

In 1996, Stander was admitted as an advocate of the high court, where his career prosecuting some of the most high-profile criminal cases in the Eastern Cape began.

In 1998, he took over the management and administration of the witness protection programme for the Eastern Cape, a function he still conducts.

The following year, he was promoted to senior state advocate.

A career highlight for Stander was the 2009 conviction of ponzi queen Maureen Clifford. More than R155-million was lost in the scheme, and with at least 800 witnesses called, the trial lasted years.

It was at the same time that Stander discovered his passion for housebreaking cases.

The surge in the crimes in Nelson Mandela Bay saw Stander launch a project addressing the shortcomings of fingerprint evidence, as well as the use of cellphone evidence – something he will rely heavily on in the Panayiotou case.

With the shortcomings exposed, a new system was put in place and since 2013 Stander has been presenting lectures on the “Practical approach to fingerprint-evidence”.

In 2001, and subsequent to a hostage drama at St Albans Prison, Stander obtained a landmark judgment when he successfully applied to prosecute the four men responsible inside the prison.

The financial costs for the security and transportation of these men back then would have cost the taxpayer an estimated R80 000 a day.

A court was established inside St Albans, where over three months Stander prosecuted the accused behind bars.

The men were ultimately sentenced to a combined 132 years’ imprisonment.

The specially built court is still in use.

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