Personal issues raised after friendship with Panayiotou family
An encounter between murder accused Christopher Panayiotou’s lawyer and the policeman he has for the past year accused of being a double agent became heated in court yesterday, with cross-examination dragging up personal details from a 16-year friendship.
Advocate Terry Price SC dared Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen to look Costa and Fanoula Panayiotou – sitting in the front row of the gallery – in the face as he denied ever borrowing money from them during their friendship which came to an abrupt end after their son’s arrest.
But money was not the only aspect which surfaced in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday as Price took a dig at the policeman, asking about meals which were provided to him by the family.
Eksteen had testified earlier that he met the Panayiotous 16 years ago.
“Chris was just a little boy then. He grew up in front of me,” he said.
Eksteen was even invited to Panayiotou and Jayde’s wedding.
“Chris would often phone me when he needed advice,” he said.
On April 21 last year, Costa phoned Eksteen and informed him that Jayde was missing. They feared she had been abducted.
“I was in Graaff Reinet at the time,” Eksteen said. “I told him to hang tight, that I would be there as soon as I could.”
Eksteen, who is attached to the Organised Crime Unit and works closely with investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel, said he assisted in the search for Jayde, 29, in his personal capacity.
A few days later, Swanepoel phoned him and invited him to be part of the investigating team.
“He said I knew Chris well and he had now been implicated [by Luthando Siyoni],” Eksteen said.
He said at all times during his encounters with alleged middleman Siyoni, he cooperated voluntarily and wanted to implicate Panayiotou to prove he was telling the truth.
Eksteen was testifying in a trialwithin-a-trial to determine the admissibility of a sting recording where the state says Panayiotou implicates himself in Jayde’s kidnapping and murder.
But Price ended the day yesterday dragging up details of Eksteen’s friendship with the Panayiotous.
He asked Eksteen if he ever borrowed money from the couple.
“Why would I do that?” he replied.
Asked about free food, Eksteen said: “We were friends, that’s what friends do.”
The trial continues today.