There were drama in court as Christopher Panayiotou’s defence attorney Terry Price and state advocate Marius Stander went head to head over whether Panayiotou would be lodging a new bail application.
After lengthy arguments, the defence indicated that it would withdraw the new application – for now.
Panayiotou stands accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife, 29-year-old school teacher Jayde, in April this year.
It is alleged he paid Luthando Siyoli, 31, a bouncer at his nightclub in Algoa Park, to hire a hit man, identified as Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 30, to murder his wife. Late last month Sinethemba Nenembe, 28, was also linked to the case and will join Panayiotou and Vumazonke in the dock. Siyoli has since turned state witness.
Panayiotou’s legal team is currently seeking access to the state docket, as part of a new bail application bid after his original bail application was denied on June 5. They filed for access to the docket through the magistrate’s court earlier this month.
However, in a brief appearance before Magistrate Abigail Beeton last week, Stander argued that the magistrate’s court did not have the jurisdiction to make a ruling on the docket, as it could only do so should such an application be brought during a bail application. Panayiotou at that stage had not yet lodged a new application.
Price began proceedings by saying that, on review, the defence agreed with Stander about the jurisdiction of the magistrate’s court. He would like to have their motion of access to the docket struck off the roll, as they had already approached the High Court for the matter to be heard there.
Price indicated that the matter was provisionally set down to be heard in the High Court for December, and asked for Beeton to set down the date as such, but Stander took exception to the date.
Stander then produced letters written by Panayiotou’s attorney, Alwyn Griebenouw, wherein Griebenouw had indicated that, regardless of the outcome of the application for the docket, the defence would be lodging a new bail application for Panayiotou on December 1.
Stander pointed out that he had had to withdraw from two High Court proceedings in order to be available for Panayiotou’s latest applications and that he had had to have the Investigating Officer, Kanna Swanepoel, move his diary around in order to be available for the proposed new bail application.
The previous date set for the new bail application was on November 16, but it never took place.
Price said the only reason there were delays was because of the state delaying the release of the docket.
“We do not have access to the docket. All our attempts have been thwarted,” he said.
Price said Stander was a “poker player who claimed he had a royal flush but did not want to show anyone his cards”.
“This is a flagrant, transparent attempt to make fools of us,” he said. “We will not be able to bring a new application at that point.”
Price said the magistrate was giving too many accolades to Stander, as “he’s not as important as he thinks he is”.
While he was aware that Stander would not be available from December 4 to January 11, it was not crucial that the state prosecutor had to be there to hear the new bail application, Price said.
New bail application withdrawn
Price said he could not comment on the agreement between Stander and Griebenouw, but said the defence would not be in a position to go ahead with a new bail application until it had seen the State’s case against his client.
He said they needed to look at the docket and, if the case was as strong as the State said it was, they might have to advise Panayiotou not to seek a new bail application, and vice versa.
As such Price said they would withdraw the notice of intent to lodge a new bail application on December 1.
Beeton then postponed the matter back to the magistrate’s court, court 27, on December 2 for further investigation, where Panayiotou is scheduled to appear with his two co-accused.
Price and Stander will however clash swords the day before in the Port Elizabeth High Court when Panayiotou’s defence will continue their pursuit for access to the court docket.