Price grills policeman about previous allegations of assault
Three past cases – all criticising the conduct of the policeman who cracked Jayde Panayiotou’s murder case – came back to haunt Lieutenant-Colonel Willie Mayi on the witness stand yesterday as he was forced to answer to allegations of assault and threats to the state’s key witness.
Mayi, who is a member of the vehicle hijacking unit, told the Port Elizabeth High Court that after Jayde’s murder on April 21 last year he received a call from a police informant with information on the Uitenhage teacher’s kidnapping and murder.
He was out of town at the time but returned to Port Elizabeth on April 27 to meet the informer.
This led to his questioning of Section 204 witness Luthando Siyoni and his girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast.
While Breakfast and Siyoni have since backtracked on their statements, with Siyoni claiming police assaulted him and forced him to implicate his boss and Jayde’s husband, Christopher Panayiotou, Mayi claimed he did everything by the book.
Mayi told state advocate Marius Stander he placed Siyoni and Breakfast in separate rooms at the Uitenhage police station before proceeding with his questioning of Breakfast.
“I told her about my information and she immediately told me what she knew,” Mayi said.
He said they spoke in Xhosa, but that he wrote her statement in English. He read it to her and then gave it to her to read once more before signing. He arrested Siyoni afterwards. “I told him that his girlfriend corroborated what I already knew,” he said.
Mayi said the bouncer and gym owner did not take kindly to being handcuffed and put up quite a fight.
“While resisting, he scratched himself on the left eye with the handcuffs.”
Mayi said he did not note the injury in his statement because he saw it as insignificant.
Siyoni allegedly confessed to acting as the middleman for Panayiotou and suspected hitmen Sizwezakhe Vumazonke and Sinethemba Nemembe to kidnap and kill Jayde, who would have celebrated her 31st birthday today.
Siyoni told the court last week that the police forced him to say certain things, claiming Mayi and his team beat him.
Mayi said Siyoni was lying and that it was not uncommon for suspects to later accuse the police of assault.
But Panayiotou’s defence advocate, Terry Price SC, took Mayi by surprise when he began listing past cases where Mayi was accused of assault or misleading the court.
“You are the enforcer. The one who runs around beating everybody up,” Price said.
He referred to a case where Mayi was found to have misled the court about an accused being beaten so badly that he soiled his pants.
In another matter – a civil case – Mayi was called out for leading a police team which allegedly tortured a suspect.