Court rejects Panayiotou’s new bail bid

OPPOSING BAIL: Self-styled ‘hangman’s group’ Paul Potgieter, Koos Oliphant and Victor Tansell are joined by Afriforum’s Kobus Gerber to celebrate Chris Panayiotou’s failed bail appeal Picture: ADRIENNE CARLISLE
OPPOSING BAIL: Self-styled ‘hangman’s group’ Paul Potgieter, Koos Oliphant and Victor Tansell are joined by Afriforum’s Kobus Gerber to celebrate Chris Panayiotou’s failed bail appeal Picture: ADRIENNE CARLISLE
Port Elizabeth businessman Christopher Panayiotou will stay in jail pending his trial for the alleged kidnapping and murder of his wife Jayde.

Grahamstown High Court Judge Glenn Goosen yesterday upheld the Port Elizabeth Regional Court’s decision not to grant Panayiotou bail.

Spontaneous applause and cheering rang out in a packed Grahamstown High Court motion court after Judge Nomatamsanqa Beshe read out Goosen’s decision.

Jayde’s family and supporters turned up in numbers to hear the 30-second bottom line of the judgment read out by Beshe.

Jayde’s delighted mother Michelle Inggs described them as the best seconds of her life. She later told the Dispatch she was very, very happy at the decision.

In the full written judgment, Goosen found magistrate Abigail Beeton had not erred in a single respect when deciding that Panayiotou should not be granted bail.

Panayiotou is facing charges that he masterminded his wife, Jayde’s kidnapping and murder by two co-accused earlier this year.

The so-called schedule six offence requires that he show exceptional circumstances why he should be granted bail.

Goosen said that in a bail appeal, the law required that he could not interfere with the magistrate’s decision unless he could find that she had misdirected herself in a material way in relation to either fact or law.

In the course of his 27-page judgment he dismissed every one of Panayiotou’s allegations of misdirection.

In particular, Goosen found that Beeton could not be faulted for finding that the state had a strong prima facie case against Panayiotou.

Goosen said if an accused chose to challenge the strength of the state case against him in bail proceedings he was required to show there was a real likelihood he would be acquitted at trial.

Beeton was correct to find Panayiotou had failed to do so.

He also dismissed the argument of Panayiotou’s counsel, Mike Hellens, SC, that she had elevated the strength of the state’s case “into the be-all and end-all” of the matter.

“The magistrate considered the strength of the state case against as but one of the factors to be considered when deciding whether there was a likelihood that would evade trial, as she was required to do, and she was cognisant of the role that the assessment of the strength of the state’s case plays in the overall decision whether exceptional circumstances have been shown to exist.”

Goosen also ruled that Beeton had not misdirected herself in finding there was a likelihood that Panayiotou would tamper with evidence or interfere with witnesses if released on bail.

In coming to this conclusion, she had considered his long standing relationship with his mistress and witness Chanelle Coutts who might be susceptible to his influence.

She also took into consideration his past conduct which included that in a police-recorded sting operation he had urged his co-accused Thando Siyoli to destroy a cellphone and sim card and urged him to leave town to hide from the police.

Goosen similarly found nothing wrong with Beeton’s conclusion there was a likelihood Panayiotou would evade trial if granted bail.

In conclusion, Goosen found that Beeton had correctly considered all factors ordinarily taken into account.

“She came to the conclusion on the totality of the evidence that had not discharged the onus to establish, on a balance of probability, that exceptional circumstances exist which, in the interests of justice, permit to be released on bail. I am unable to find that the magistrate was wrong in so doing.”

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