Policeman caught off guard as defence reveals secret recording
Secret recordings made by Christopher Panayiotou’s family of private conversations with a policeman investigating his wife Jayde’s murder, surfaced in court yesterday, catching Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen off guard.
Eksteen, a family friend of the Panayiotous for 16 years, took to the stand in the Port Elizabeth High Court for the second day and was grilled by the defence about his involvement in a sting operation.
Alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni, 37, who has backtracked on a confession in which he admitted to helping Panayiotou organise his wife’s death, had told the court how police from the Organised Crime Unit pressured him into implicating his former boss.
Siyoni said police showed him graphic images of Jayde’s bloody body.
Asked by defence advocate Terry Price SC, if there was any truth to Siyoni’s claim, Eksteen denied that photographs of this nature were ever shown to him, or at least they were not done so in his presence.
But, catching him by surprise, Price played Eksteen a recording from May 1 last year – just days after Panayiotou’s arrest – in which he tells Panayiotou’s parents, Costa and Fanoula, that Siyoni had been made to look at the photos.
“I sat with that other suspect [Siyoni] and told him to f***ing look at the photos,” Eksteen is heard telling the couple at a restaurant in Uitenhage.
Asked why he had lied, Eksteen said he was not the investigating officer and had never been in possession of the photographs.
“Maybe I was trying to make the family feel better. They were very heartsore,” he said.
He was also recorded telling the family that the police who arrested Siyoni were “rough” with him. The policeman’s friendship with the family ended shortly after this.
Eksteen was testifying in a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of the recording.
He said that prior to Jayde’s kidnapping and murder on April 21 last year, Costa had told him he suspected his son was having an affair.
Costa had asked him to try to find out if Panayiotou was in East London with OK Grocer manager Chanelle Coutts.
“He was very angry and said he was writing him off … wants nothing to do with him,” Eksteen said.
It was the state’s case during Panayiotou’s bail application last year that the motive for the murder was his possible disinheritance.
The trial continues.