How Siyoni evaded arrest for six months

Cops’ relentless efforts to nab Jayde accused revealed in bail application

Luthando Siyoni at a previous court appearance during the Panayiotou murder trial in the Port Elizabeth High Court
Luthando Siyoni at a previous court appearance during the Panayiotou murder trial in the Port Elizabeth High Court
Image: Eugene Coetzee

For six months, the man at the centre of Jayde Panayiotou’s murder sent police on a wild goose chase across the province, with an undercover agent even joining a gym in an effort to track down Luthando Siyoni.

The exercise proved fruitless, however, with the bodybuilder eventually found earlier this month shacked up with a woman – not his former girlfriend Babalwa Breakfast – in an outbuilding attached to his mother’s Port Elizabeth home.

Details of how the alleged middleman was eventually nabbed, and the community’s growing anguish, emerged in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday as Siyoni’s bail application finally got under way.

Breakfast who, like Siyoni, was found by the Port Elizabeth High Court to be a liar and bribed to change her testimony during Christopher Panayiotou’s murder trial, now surprisingly appears as a witness against Siyoni.

A charge of perjury was provisionally withdrawn against her in February last year.

Siyoni, 37, who will now stand trial separately for Uitenhage schoolteacher Jayde’s April 2015 murder, asked magistrate Thandeka Mashiyi yesterday to release him on bail.

He said he would plead not guilty to the charges.

Panayiotou, 31, was sentenced to life in prison in November for orchestrating the hit on his wife, Jayde, 29.

Christopher Panayiotou was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Jayde
Christopher Panayiotou was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Jayde
Image: Eugene Coetzee

It is alleged that Siyoni, who had initially agreed to testify against Panayiotou in exchange for indemnity from prosecution, helped recruit the hitmen and acted as the middleman.

His Section 204 status was revoked by the high court when he recanted his confession to the police.

He surprised the prosecution and claimed in court that he had been beaten and forced to implicate his former boss.

State advocate Marius Stander said yesterday that, from that point on, members of the Hawks had been searching for Siyoni.

Reading from the affidavit of investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel, Stander said: “Since November 23 2017, me [Swanepoel] and other members of my unit hunted Siyoni relentlessly without success.

“As he could not be traced, I obtained a warrant for his arrest.”

Swanepoel said Siyoni’s attorney, Zolile Ngqeza, was also approached but indicated that he did not know where his client was.

At one stage, Ngqeza said Siyoni could be overseas.
Swanepoel said in his affidavit that prior to Siyoni’s initial arrest in 2015, he had given his address as an informal dwelling situated on the same premises as his parental home in Kulati Street, Kwazakhele.

The dwelling was demolished later. “After having testified in the high court trial, Siyoni once again supplied this address as his residential address,” he said.

“Me and other members of my unit visited this address on numerous occasions, both during the day and night, without success.”

Swanepoel said Siyoni’s family, particularly his mother, were adamant that they did not know where he was.

The home of Breakfast – who was Siyoni’s girlfriend for several years – had also been visited.

“Initially, Breakfast indicated that she and Siyoni had terminated their relationship,” he said.

“But at a later stage, Siyoni’s family said they were together in the Fort Beaufort and East London area.

“Then, at some stage, information was received that Siyoni was assisting with training at a gym in Kwazakhele.”

Babalwa Breakfast. File picture
Babalwa Breakfast. File picture
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Swanepoel said an undercover agent had been tasked to join the gym and ascertain Siyoni’s whereabouts, without success. On May 7 this year, he was in East London when he received information that Siyoni was at his mother’s home.

Swanepoel sent some of his members to the house at 1pm, where they found Siyoni’s mother.

There was a cellphone lying on the table and on touching the screen of the phone, Warrant Officer Shane Bosch noticed that the screensaver was a picture of Siyoni.

“As Bosch left the house, he observed an outside building. Bosch knocked on the door but no one answered.

“He then heard the voice of Siyoni speaking to someone. Bosch kicked the door open.

“Inside, he found Siyoni with a female companion. It was not Breakfast,” he said.

Swanepoel said through this behaviour, Siyoni had effectively already proven to be a flight risk.

“It is very difficult to enforce bail conditions on someone who has for six months evaded arrest,” he said.

Meanwhile, reading Siyoni’s affidavit into the record, Ngqeza said: “I stood as a Section 204 witness. There were opportunities for me to flee but I did not.

“The witnesses are known to me but I have not interfered with them.”

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