Confusion and chaos reigned in the passages of the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday with the arrival of murder accused Christopher Panayiotou’s mistress and the man who allegedly assisted Panayiotou to have his wife, Jayde, killed.
Court proceedings were stalled to today, when the state’s Section 204 witness, Luthando Siyoni, will become the first to take the stand in a trial-within-a-trial regarding the admissibility of his evidence.
The state spent most of the morning yesterday trying to track down Siyoni, 31, who had been released from protective custody.
When he eventually arrived at court just before lunchtime with his attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, they spent hours behind closed doors in consultation with state advocate Marius Stander.
The surprise arrival at court of Panayiotou’s mistress, Chanelle Coutts, earlier, also upset Jayde’s family.
Coutts, wearing her OK Grocer uniform and carrying a Polo handbag, spent several hours in another closed room with the investigating team and lawyer Danie Gouws.
The state alleges that Panayiotou, 30, who admitted to having an affair with Coutts, paid Siyoni to hire hitmen to kidnap and murder Jayde, 29, on April 21 last year.
The court heard earlier how Panayiotou had bought Coutts, who works as a manager at the family’s OK Grocer in Algoa Park, expensive gifts such as Polo handbags.
Journalists and the families of both Panayiotou and Jayde milled around in the corridors of the court yesterday, but the state and defence counsel kept everyone guessing as to what was going on.
A confident Siyoni, a bouncer at Panayiotou’s Infinity Cocktail Bar at the time of the murder, blew a kiss to photographers as they snapped his picture.
When the stockily built Zwide gym owner, wearing a tracksuit, took to the witness stand briefly in the afternoon, he leaned on the podium and glanced quickly at Panayiotou and co-accused Sinethemba Nemembe, 28, and Zolani Sibeko, 35, seated in the dock.
While Panayiotou and suspected hitman Nemembe have each spent about 18 months behind bars for Jayde’s murder, Siyoni was kept in protective custody after turning state witness.
He was allowed to go home about a month ago after retaining the services of an attorney.
Panayiotou’s lawyers will argue that Siyoni was assaulted and forced to implicate Panayiotou in Jayde’s murder. If they succeed, the evidence which came from Siyoni could be deemed inadmissible.
Stander has, meanwhile, already indicated he will not rely on Siyoni’s confession but will rather try to get the court to accept his statements to the police.
Last month, Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, who had initially told police that money found in her boyfriend’s gym bag was payment for the alleged hit, changed her story in court, claiming the money was for the upgrade of his gym.
She was arrested on charges of defeating the ends of justice and perjury.
The trial continues.