The authenticity of Facebook data was brought into question in the ongoing murder trial of Christopher Panayiotou and his two co-accused Sinethemba Nemembe and Zolani Sibeko in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday.
The men are charged with the alleged kidnapping and subsequent murder of Panayiotou’s school teacher wife, Jayde, during April last year.
On Tuesday, Warrant Officer Shane Kuhn stationed at the police’s Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) told the court how he had used a cell phone number to link Nemembe to a Facebook profile. He essentially typed in a number and Nemembe’s face popped up.
Nemembe has apparently been linked to the crime through cellphone mapping.
Nemembe’s lawyer, Advocate Peter Daubermann objected strongly to Kuhn’s testimony and said it amounted to a “trial by Facebook or trial by Google” search.
He argued that the evidence amounted to an internet “search result” and later put it to Kuhn that he was not a “Google or Facebook expert”. Kuhn conceded that he did not know how the systems connected people.
“This is not my client’s Facebook account, this is not evidence of a Facebook account, a number was typed in and a name came up. This evidence cannot prove anything, it’s inadmissible and can have no probative value,” argued Daubermann.
“It may be that this number is that of an associate of his. It would be different if that number was entered into his Facebook account. The police never went into his Facebook profile and determined that that number was entered by Nemembe. This just shows, with respect [to] the State’s evidence they have against Accused Number 3, this is the best they have against my client”.
Daubermann’s objection was overruled by Judge Dayalin Chetty and Kuhn went on to explain that he accessed self confessed middleman, Luthando Siyoni’s Facebook profile in the same way by making use of his cell phone number.
It is alleged that Panayiotou paid Siyoni, a bouncer from his Infinity nightclub, to hire hitman Sizwe Vumazonke to kidnap and kill Jayde. Vumazonke who was the alleged link between Siyoni and other hitmen, has since died.
The State alleges that Nemembe assisted Vumazonke to kidnap and murder Jayde at the behest of her husband.
Nemembe and Sibeko have apparently been kinked to alleged crime through cellphone mapping. Sibeko was the last suspect to be arrested, 15 months after the killing, he too has apparently been linked to the alleged crime through cellphone mapping to being present outside Jayde’s complex in the days before her murder.
The trial continues on Wednesday.
African News Agency