Defence questions Facebook evidence

COURTROOM BANTER: State prosecutor Marius Stander passes comments during the hearing Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
COURTROOM BANTER: State prosecutor Marius Stander passes comments during the hearing

A cellphone number linked to the Facebook account of an alleged hitman is one of the ways in which police allegedly tied Sinethemba Nemembe to Uitenhage teacher Jayde Panayiotou’s kidnapping and murder last year.

Warrant Officer Shane Kuhn’s testimony in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday, detailing how he managed to trace that number to 28-year-old Nemembe’s social media account, resulted in a heated argument between the state and the defence.

Attorney Peter Daubermann wanted the evidence disallowed on the basis that the method used by Kuhn – searching the number through Facebook – was “not foolproof”. Daubermann accused the state of having next to no evidence against his client.

State advocate Marius Stander had questioned Kuhn on his involvement in the investigation into Jayde’s murder on April 21 last year.

Kuhn said while he was not part of the task team formed to investigate the murder, he had been present on April 22 when a police informant spilt the beans on Christopher Panayiotou’s alleged involvement.

“He [the informant] also mentioned a bouncer who was quite well known in the area, but did not give a name,” Kuhn said.

The informant pointed out self-confessed middleman Luthando Siyoni’s address in Zwide, which they visited later.

Placing a screenshot of a link to Nemembe’s Facebook account on the overhead projector in court, Kuhn said he entered the cellphone number in the Facebook search function and Nemembe’s profile came up.

Kuhn said that, similarly, when another number was searched, Siyoni’s profile was revealed.

The state alleges that Panayiotou, 30, paid Siyoni, 31, to arrange hitmen Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 36, and Nemembe to carry out the murder.

The state is relying on cellphone tower plotting to link the accused to the offence, more specifically to place Vumazonke and Nemembe at the scene of the kidnapping and, later, the murder.

A trial-within-a-trial will likely be called today when the state attempts to deal with the evidence of Siyoni, now a Section 204 witness.

Meanwhile, Daubermann argued that there were numerous possibilities as to why the cellphone number could be linked to his client’s Facebook account.

“It doesn’t mean it’s his number – it could belong to an associate of his,” he said.

Stander said the Facebook link was but a portion of the evidence against Nemembe.

If Daubermann wanted to question the correctness of the search function, then he should do so in cross-examination, Stander said.

Judge Dayalin Chetty allowed the evidence and said he would give reasons for his decision at a later stage.

The trial continues today.


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