‘Middleman’ wanted money, witness testifies

The day Jayde Panayiotou went missing, alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni came to the Infinity nightclub asking about money, a former business partner of Christopher Panayiotou’s has told the Port Elizabeth High Court. Noxy Sokuta said it had been about 11am – just hours after Jayde’s disappearance on April 21 last year – when Siyoni arrived at work, looking for the murder-accused businessman. “Luthando said he needed R30 000 but would be happy with R10 000 to show his business partners,” Sokuta told the court. By this stage, news of Jayde’s disappearance was all over social media and Sokuta told Siyoni it was unlikely Panayiotou would come in to work. “I offered to phone Chris, but Luthando said he would wait around.”

She said he had stayed at the Algoa Park club until closing. Sokuta, who helped run the club and at one stage entered into a gambling business deal with Panayiotou, said she had told him about Siyoni’s visit only after Jayde’s funeral. She said Siyoni had worked as a bouncer at Infinity over weekends and was paid R250 a shift. Referring to the day of Siyoni’s arrest late on April 27, Sokuta said she had phoned Panayiotou to tell him what had transpired. About 20 minutes later, he arrived at the bar with Donovan Vosloo. The state claims Vosloo, an IT expert, wiped Panayiotou’s phone to conceal evidence. Meanwhile, in another court yesterday, Siyoni’s girlfriend, Babalwa Breakfast, made a brief appearance on charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice.

Breakfast, who said in a statement that Siyoni had told her about the hit on Jayde – and that Panayiotou had orchestrated it – did an about turn when she told the Port Elizabeth High Court earlier this week she never made such a statement. She said the money found in Siyoni’s gym bag had been meant for renovations to his Zwide gym and was not payment for arranging the hit. Breakfast appeared briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday and was released on bail of R1 000. The case against her was postponed to November 25 for further investigation. Brigadier Gary McLaren told the high court in the afternoon that he had put together a task team to investigate the school teacher’s murder. McLaren, head of detectives for the Eastern Cape, said it was on his instruction that Siyoni had been taken all the way to Fort Beaufort to give a confession. He said there was nothing sinister about the decision to transport Siyoni out of town and it was something that happened regularly.

“Because of the Jayde frenzy . . . We wanted to keep it out of the media,” McLaren said. He said the injury to alleged hitman Sizwezakhe Vumazonke’s eye had been immediately reported to him upon Vumazonke’s arrest on May 3. He read the now-deceased Vumazonke his rights and explained to him that Siyoni had implicated him in the murder. “Sizwe was very aggressive. He demanded to see Luthando so he could confront him,” McLaren said. Vumazonke was taken to Kabega Park police station, where Siyoni was being kept, but he became aggressive towards Siyoni and the meeting was called off. Asked by state advocate Marius Stander why Vumazonke had been placed under arrest only some four hours later, he said they had been trying to follow up on information given to them by the suspected trigger man. McLaren said he had asked Captain Willie Mayi to assist, and they had taken Vumazonke to the Despatch police station so he could interview him. The defence claims Vumazonke was assaulted by police. McLaren will be cross-examined on Monday.