Heart-rending account of her terrifying final moments
Jayde Panayiotou, in the terrifying, last moments of her life, raised her hand in a desperate attempt to shield herself from a fatal bullet to the head as her shooter stood over her.
She had already been shot twice in the back as she tried to flee, before the cold-blooded final shot, the Port Elizabeth High Court heard yesterday as the much-anticipated murder trial began.
Gun residue lifted from the petite Uitenhage teacher’s hand after her body was found abandoned in a field bears witness to her panicked last-gasp effort to save herself.
Immediately after the murder, suspected triggerman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 36, who was allegedly still holding on to Jayde’s book bag and laptop, visited a sangoma where he requested a “cleansing”.
It was Vumazonke’s trip to the sangoma that set police on his trail.
Although Vumazonke has since died from a mysterious illness and is unable to refute the state’s version, Jayde’s husband, Christopher Panayiotou, 30, and co-accused Sinethemba Nemembe, 28, and Zolani Sibeko, 35, pleaded not guilty in the high court yesterday to kidnapping, robbing and murdering Jayde, 29.
The gallery was packed with family and friends of both Jayde and the accused, as well as the media.
Jayde’s supporters wore yellow ribbons – her favourite colour.
In a lengthy plea explanation read out by defence advocate Terry Price SC, Panayiotou said he planned to show in the next eight weeks how police had used unlawful and unconstitutional tactics to try to build a case against him.
The state claims Panayiotou paid Luthando Siyoni, 31, an employee at his Infinity Cocktail Bar in Algoa Park, to recruit hitmen to kidnap and kill Jayde on April 21 last year.
Siyoni has admitted his involvement and implicated Panayiotou.
“I will request the court to order a trial-within-a-trial on the basis that the evidence obtained following the removal of Siyoni from Infinity at approximately 8.15pm on April 27 2015 is inadmissible,” Price read.
“All the evidence thereafter is tainted as a result of the police assaulting, intimidating and unlawfully pressuring Siyoni to implicate me.”
Panayiotou professed to have loved his wife, saying they had been happy in the 2½ years they were married.
But although he claimed he had even bought a house in Lovemore Park just months before Jayde’s death in the hope that they would live happily there and spend the rest of their lives together, state advocate Marius Stander painted a vastly different picture of a couple who led separate lives.
He said Panayiotou had treated his mistress, Chanelle Coutts, as more of a wife, leaving Jayde feeling lonely and sad.
“It may have appeared to the outside world they were happily married, but the state will lead evidence [to the contrary],” Stander said.
Setting out their daily routine, Stander said when Jayde left for work at Riebeek College in the mornings, Panayiotou was still asleep.
Panayiotou would then get up, go to his business, OK Grocer, and spend time with Coutts before going to his office.
In the evenings, he would once again spend time with Coutts before going home late, when Jayde was already sleeping.
Price said the state had struggled in vain to find a motive for the murder and had resorted to speculation. “I have no doubt whatsoever that my right to a fair trial has been trashed by the state,” Panayiotou said in his plea explanation.
“Prior to the arrest of Siyoni, the state had no evidence whatsoever linking me to this offence.
“I had been working closely with the police.
“As such, the entire state case was predicated from the word go.”
Price said that over two days, April 28 and 29 last year, Siyoni had been booked out of the police cells and taken to the offices of the Organised Crime Unit, where he was forced to implicate Panayiotou.
He said that on the first day, investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel removed the caller ID on his cellphone and told Siyoni to phone Panayiotou to trick him into implicating himself.
“There were 13 attempts just that day to make contact with me [Panayiotou] from Swanepoel’s phone,” Price read further from the plea explanation.
“When that didn’t succeed, he was given a prepaid cellphone to contact me.”
Panayiotou claims to be in possession of a taped conversation in which Siyoni was told what to say, or face 25 years in prison.
Stander said police had already set their sights on Panayiotou the day after Jayde’s body was recovered in KwaNobuhle.
He said a conversation between Siyoni and Vumazonke, in which it was agreed Vumazonke would carry out the hit, had taken place on Facebook messenger.
On April 9, Vumazonke allegedly used money given to him by Panayiotou to rent a car.
On April 21, the tracker fitted inside the vehicle showed how the rental car allegedly sped up onto the pavement of the Panayiotous’ Stellen Glen residential complex, where Jayde waited with her book bag for a lift to school.
She was shoved into the boot of the car.
The tracker then shows the vehicle travelling to KwaNobuhle.
“At around 7am, three gunshots were heard by a resident in the area,” Stander said.
“Jayde was shot twice in the back.
“She then held her hand up towards the shooter, resulting in gunpowder residue landing on her hand. She was shot once in the head.”
At 7.09am, a flurry of phone calls had ensued between Vumazonke and Siyoni.
Stander said Vumazonke had then visited the traditional healer.
Nemembe and Sibeko opted not to give plea explanations yet.