Cop and ex-Panayiotou family friend accused of ‘begging’ for money

FILE PICTURE: Christopher Panayiotou stares straight ahead during his bail hearing application, 20 May 2015, at the Magistrates Court, Port Elizabeth. Picture: Judy de Vega

FILE PICTURE: Christopher Panayiotou stares straight ahead during his bail hearing application, 20 May 2015, at the Magistrates Court, Port Elizabeth. Picture: Judy de Vega

Leon Eksteen came under fire from the defence during the trial-within-a-trial.

Vulgar language and personal attacks appeared to set the tone in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday, in the ongoing murder trial involving Christopher Panayiotou and his two co-accused as proceedings entered its eighth week.

A trial-within-a-trial was currently underway which aimed to deal with admissibility of a video recording between alleged middleman Luthando Siyoni and Panayiotou during an undercover police sting operation on April 29, last year.

Detective Warrant Officer Leon Eksteen who had been friends with the Panayiotous for 16 years prior to Jayde’s murder last year, took to the stand on Monday, to tell the court how he became involved in the investigation and how he facilitated phone calls Siyoni made to the businessman, this in order for police to execute a sting operation.

Under cross examination Eksteen came under attack by defence advocate Terry Price who accused Eksteen of “begging” the Panayiotous for money and food.

Price went as far as accusing Eksteen of not returning R3000 from Christopher’s father, Costa.

“Did you ask Costa for money to pay for a helicopter when Jayde went missing?” asked Price.

Eksteen responded: “No, Costa asked if I knew someone with a helicopter, he gave me R3000. We had made arrangements with John Huddleston’s Helicopter Services.”

“The helicopter could not take off due to the mist. The police helicopter took off and Jayde’s body was found. So I gave the money back to him,” said Eksteen.

But things became heated between the two when Price persisted that Eksteen borrowed money from the Panayiotou family.

“The Panayiotous will say that you constantly borrowed money from them,” Price said.

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Eksteen denied the accusations that he “begged” the family for money.

“For what [must I borrow money]? No I did not,” Eksteen exclaimed.

Then Price went on to ask Eksteen if he had borrowed food from the Panayiotous.

At this point Jayde’s mother Michelle and sister Toni became visibly upset and walked out of the court room.

“Many times I would visit him [Costa] in the evenings and we would talk and he would make a burger for himself and one for me,” Eksteen explained.

Price also wanted to know from Eksteen if someone in the police had referred to Christopher as a “p**s and a f****r”. Price continued to use vulgar language to repeat the question.

Price also asked Eksteen if he hit Christopher on the back of his head at the time of his arrest, to which Eksteen denied ever assaulting the businessman.

Earlier in the day the court heard how Eksteen had attended the couple’s wedding and how Christopher would call him when he needed advice on “life”.

He said that Christopher had grown up in front of his eyes and that the businessman had been just a young boy when he had befriended the Panayiotous all those years ago.

Eksteen and the Panayiotou family have since become estranged.

The cop and former family friend also went onto recall the days before Christopher’s arrest, when the businessman called him to meet up.

Under instruction from the Investigating Officer Captain Kanna Swanepoel that meeting was recorded.

“My words to him [Christopher] was that he should be as honest as possible with the investigating officer, I said I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, only he [Christopher] knows,” he said.

Siyoni previously testified that police “forced” and “threatened” him to call his boss as part of the sting operation – it was either cooperate or face jail time, this according to the bouncer.

“They said I must make Chris confess [to his wife’s murder] so that there can be something that can cause him to be arrested because I was given the money by him,” Siyoni previously told the court.

But according to Eksteen, Siyoni acted freely in the “spirit of cooperation”. Eksteen told Siyoni what to tell Panayiotou and the two then eventually met at a garage.

A recording device was placed in Siyoni’s vehicle who then managed to convince Panayiotou to get into his vehicle.

The State contends that Siyoni’s meeting with Panayiotou during the police sting operation happened because the bouncer wanted to verify his version of events to police.

The Section 204 witness, who was also declared hostile, has since backtracked on the contents of statements he made to police where he implicated the businessman.

The defence want the video recorded during the sting operation ruled inadmissible.

The State alleges that Panayiotou hired the bouncer from his Infinity nightclub to recruit hitmen to kidnap and kill Jayde because she was a “financial burden”.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

-African News Agency

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