Wife-killer Christopher Panayiotou could go to prison for the rest of his life – a fact that quickly sank in yesterday as Judge Dayalin Chetty found him guilty of masterminding the murder of his wife, Jayde.
“Guilty, guilty, guilty” – the words Jayde’s family had waited so long to hear echoed across the packed courtroom, eliciting clapping and cheers from the gallery.
Panayiotou’s face reddened and his family seated directly behind him in the Port Elizabeth High Court began to cry.
In a mammoth judgment that lasted much of the day – which was also Panayiotou’s 31st birthday – Chetty convicted him of murder, while hitman Sinethemba Nemembe, 28, was found guilty of murder and robbery with aggravated circumstances, and Zolani Sibeko, 35, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
After the judgment, Jayde’s younger sister, Toni Inggs, said her family was elated with the outcome.
“My sister can finally rest and we truly hope that they get the time they deserve with sentencing.”
Inggs said she was overwhelmed and forever grateful to the strangers who had now become their heroes.
“Nothing will bring Jayde back or take away the hurt but right now, in this moment, we feel overwhelming joy and appreciation.”
The men will be sentenced on November 17.
Defence Advocate Terry Price SC has already indicated that he intends bringing an application for leave to appeal against the conviction.
Uitenhage teacher Jayde, 29, went missing from outside her home in Kabega Park, Port Elizabeth, on April 21 2015. Her body was found in Kwa- Nobuhle the next day.
Chetty said an inference could properly be made from the gun residue found on her hand that, in her final moments, she had begged for mercy.
“That act of supplication, however, elicited a bullet to her head. The medical and ballistic findings compel the conclusion that this was an execution-style murder.”
Chetty made some key findings during his mammoth judgment yesterday, including that:
Turning to the sting video in which Panayiotou and Siyoni candidly discussed Jayde’s murder, Chetty said the police’s conduct had not gone beyond providing an opportunity for Panayiotou to commit an offence.
Panayiotou’s pre-meeting utterances to Siyoni indicated quite clearly that he recognised the cat was almost out of the bag and the decision to meet was to ensure that it remained inside.
Furthermore, Chetty said, investigating officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel had not needed prior authorisation from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Price had on more than one occasion changed tack in trying to have the video disallowed.
“It is clear the evidence procured [in the car] established Panayiotou’s complicity in Jayde’s murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”
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