Traumatised mom runs out of court after image flashes on projector
Family and friends rushed out of court, sobbing, as a close-up of Jayde Panayiotou’s face – after she was killed – flickered briefly on the overhead projector.
A second picture, up on the projector for about 20 minutes, showed the murdered 29-year-old school teacher, dressed casually in a blue top and pants, lying on her back in an open field near Kwa-Nobuhle township.
As another emotional day played out in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday, with the testimony leaving witnesses and members of the gallery in tears, the state received its first setback when the court prevented a sangoma from revealing what alleged triggerman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke had told her after Jayde’s murder.
The ruling that what Vumazonke had told his aunt, Zoleka Zekani, was hearsay on the basis that it could not be tested against his version, sets the tone for similar battles ahead for the prosecution.
Vumazonke, 36, died last month amid suspicions he had been poisoned.
The state claims Jayde was kidnapped and killed on April 21 last year at the behest of her husband, Christopher Panayiotou, 30.
The businessman is accused alongside Sinethemba Nemembe, 28, and Zolani Sibeko, 35. They have all pleaded not guilty.
Middleman Luthando Siyoni has since turned state witness.
Earlier, Clarishka Kapp, the best friend of Panayiotou’s mistress, Chanelle Coutts, shocked the court when she revealed that Jayde’s husband had also showered her with expensive gifts.
Describing him as extremely generous, Kapp said that during his affair with Coutts, Panayiotou had bought her a Polo handbag, a watch during an overseas trip and a cellphone worth R7 000 – gifts similar to those he had bought for his girlfriend.
But accusing Kapp of misleading the court by leaving out vital evidence, defence advocate Terry Price SC said Panayiotou had also bought similar gifts for Jayde.
The court adjourned when Kapp broke down in tears.
She was led out of court by the interpreter, before returning moments later.
Price then attacked much of Kapp’s testimony-in-chief, claim ing she was confused about certain dates.
He said cellphone billing – to be presented at a later stage – placed Panayiotou, Kapp and Coutts in Port Elizabeth on the weekend of September 29 2014, when Kapp claimed they were in George celebrating Coutts’s birthday.
He then shocked Kapp with a photograph of her taking a bath, claiming the photo of Coutts and Panayiotou in bed together had been sent in response to Kapp’s photo.
Intimating that it was all an innocent joke, Kapp said: “[My photo] only showed the top half of my body and I had a glass of wine in my hand.”
Later, gasps could be heard from the back of the courtroom as Jayde’s mother, Michelle, covered her face and ran out of court when a picture of her daughter’s lifeless body was shown to the court.
Warrant Officer Paul Franks, of the K9 Unit, was testifying about how they had finally managed to find Jayde’s body the day after she went missing. The search started in the Kwa-Nobuhle area on April 21, the day Jayde went missing, after an attempt was made to withdraw money from Jayde’s bank account from an ATM in the area.
The search was called off after dark, but Franks’ team returned the following day following a report from a resident that she had heard three gunshots shortly before 7am on April 21.
Zekani said Vumazonke had visited her at her home on the morning of April 21.
“It was early, I was still in bed and the children had just left for school,” she said.
Zekani said Vumazonke, who was “shivering and shaking”, asked to be “washed” but she refused on the basis of what he had told her.
He allegedly also had a bag in his possession containing a laptop and books.
Judge Dayalin Chetty dismissed an application by state advocate Marius Stander to have what Vumazonke told Zekani admitted to court.
The trial continues today.