The state’s key witness played into the hands of the defence yesterday when he told the court how police tortured him, forcing him to implicate Christopher Panayiotou, 30, in the murder of his wife, Jayde.
But only time will tell if Judge Dayalin Chetty accepts Luthando Siyoni’s version, after the selfconfessed middleman backtracked on his statements last week, before changing his tune again yesterday, this time claiming he became aware of the murder plot only after the Uitenhage teacher’s death.
Siyoni, 36, also battled to explain away text messages between himself, Panayiotou and alleged triggerman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke.
He fumbled when state advocate Marius Stander asked why he had inquired about a rental vehicle when he did not even have a licence and then contacted Panayiotou directly thereafter asking for cash.
Siyoni eventually responded that the inquiry was done on behalf of his friend, Vumazonke.
The state alleges that Vumazonke used a rental vehicle to kidnap Jayde, 29, from outside her Kabega Park home on April 21 last year.
Then, surprising both the defence and the state, Siyoni said Vumazonke told him sometime after Jayde’s murder that Panayiotou had asked him to kill his wife.
He said Vumazonke, who has since died, gave him a lift to Panayiotou’s Infinity Cocktail Bar where he told him about the alleged hit.
Siyoni said Panayiotou gave him a plastic bag full of cash and told him to give it to Vumazonke.
Back at home, Siyoni counted out R50 000, gave that to Vumazonke, and kept R30 000 for himself.
Panayiotou was arrested shortly after Jayde’s body was found, after a confession from Siyoni set police on the businessman’s trail.
He told police at the time that he served as the middleman between Panayiotou and Vumazonke, who, together with Sinethemba Nemembe, 28, allegedly shot Jayde three times.
Siyoni then turned state witness and charges were withdrawn against him in exchange for his testimony.
But yesterday, he told the Port Elizabeth High Court he was tortured.
On April 27 last year, Siyoni was at work at Infinity when three men arrived, asking the barman questions.
He said they drove him to the Uitenhage police station, where he was sworn at, beaten, kicked, sprayed with pepper spray and suffocated.
He said after hours of torture, he caved in and agreed to give a statement according to what they wanted him to say.
Stander asked Siyoni to explain a text message sent to Panayiotou which read: “Boss, if I’m arrested they will make me talk and be after you.”
Siyoni said he was told to send the message to his boss as his life depended on it.
Questioned on why he had sent a description of Jayde’s car and registration to a contact on his phone by the name of “Happy Trigger”, Siyoni said he was not aware of the message.
The trial continues today.