Middleman in Jayde Panayiotou murder appears in empty courtroom
The self-confessed middleman who helped arrange the murder of Port Elizabeth school teacher Jayde Panayiotou on behalf of her husband Christopher, cut a forlorn figure as he made his first appearance in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate's Court on Tuesday on a charge of murder.
Luthando Siyoni was arrested on Monday in Kwazakhele, nearly 6 months after his immunity from prosecution was revoked.
Siyoni is being represented by the same lawyer Zolile Ngqeza who represented him as a Section 204 witness during Panayiotou's murder trial last year.
The former bouncer intends to apply for bail but prosecutor Andre Kirshner indicated that the State would oppose it.
A date for a formal bail application has yet to be finalised between the prosecution and defence.
The matter was postponed provisionally until Wednesday.
In contrast to other court appearances in relation to the school teacher's murder, the courtroom was empty.
When Siyoni entered the dock and scanned the public gallery it would appear that nobody was in court to support him.
Siyoni, who had worked for the businessman, confessed to his role in sourcing a hitman and implicated Panayiotou as the one behind the plan to have her murdered.
In his Section 204 statement, Siyoni described how he had been approached by Panayiotou to source a hitman to murder his wife, and how, after a few failed attempts, he had contracted Sizwe Vumazonke to commit the act. Vumazonke subsequently died in hospital.
But Siyoni, who was meant to be the prosecution's star witness, recanted his statements made to police and refused to answer any of State Advocate Marius Stander's questions during the trial-within-a-trial.
Siyoni's about-turn followed that of his girlfriend Babalwa Breakfast who was arrested last year and charged with perjury after she deviated from her statement to police in which she had said her boyfriend had told her about Panayiotou's alleged plans to have his wife, Jayde, killed.
Siyoni and Breakfast were both subsequently declared hostile witnesses.
During the trial, Siyoni's lawyer had advised him not to answer any questions that could be self-incriminating on the stand, even though a Section 204 witness is expected to be truthful about the events in question.
In the undercover police sting operation video, Panayiotou is seen and heard talking to Siyoni about the hit on Jayde's life.
The court found that the video laid bare Panayiotou's complicity in his wife's murder.
Siyoni's conduct was criticised by Judge Dayalin Chetty who, in his judgment, called his testimony "a cocktail of lies, perjury and contrivances" designed to advance Panayiotou's defence.
Panayiotou and Sinethemba Nenembe were found guilty of Jayde's murder, while Zolani Sibeko was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
Jayde Panayiotou went missing on April 21, 2015.
She was abducted outside her Stellen Glen Complex in Kabega Park while waiting for her lift and subsequently murdered on the outskirts of KwaNobuhle.