Mums feel ju­bi­la­tion and de­spair as their sons are found guilty of mur­der­ing Jayde Panayiotou in 2015

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When Judge Day­alin Chetty de­liv­ered his judg­ment in the mur­der trial of Christo­pher Panayiotou and his co-ac­cused this week, three moth­ers were forced to come to terms with their sons’ ac­tions al­most three years af­ter Jayde Panayiotou was killed.

And when the Port El­iz­a­beth High Court judge ruled that Panayiotou, Sinethemba Nen­embe and Zolani Sibeko were guilty of mur­der­ing Panayiotou’s wife, their moth­ers were lis­ten­ing with bated breath.

Panayiotou’s mother, Fanoula, sat in the front row in Court A’s public gallery, sur­rounded by eight fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing her hus­band.

On the bench be­hind her was Sinethemba Nen­embe’s mother, who was sup­ported in court by two friends. She de­clined to pro­vide her name.

In the row be­hind them was Jayde’s fam­ily – the Inggs – and their sup­port­ers, who wore T-shirts that said “Jus­tice for Jayde”.

As Chetty found her son guilty, Fanoula low­ered her head and sobbed, her face ob­scured by her thick, straight hair. Her hus­band, Costa, con­soled her, us­ing his chest to shield her from the cam­eras.

Nen­embe’s mother rushed to the wooden bar­rier sep­a­rat­ing the dock from the public gallery, grabbed her son with both hands and shouted words of en­cour­age­ment.

“Don’t be weak, be strong! Show them whose son you are. Don’t let your head hang down. Whose son are you?” she shouted as she walked along the bar­rier as her son was led down the stairs to the cells be­low. Nen­embe held on to his mother’s arm for a mo­ment as she kissed him on the face.

At the back of the court­room, Jayde’s mother, Michelle Inggs, lifted her tear-streaked face and smiled.

For the past two and a half years, the Inggs and Panayiotou fam­i­lies have sat on sep­a­rate court benches. The two moth­ers have barely ex­changed glances, and they have not ex­changed words.

On April 21 2015, Port El­iz­a­beth woke up to news that Jayde, a young teacher, had gone miss­ing from her town­house in a com­plex in Kabega early that morn­ing while wait­ing for her friend to pick her up for work.

The next day, af­ter a wide­spread overnight search, her body was dis­cov­ered in a farm­ing area out­side Uiten­hage. She had been shot three times at close range – in the chest, head and arm.

Dur­ing the trial, foren­sic ex­pert War­rant Of­fi­cer Phillip Bekker said that, when he ar­rived at the scene, he found Jayde fully clothed, her left arm over her chest, her hand clenched into a fist. Po­lice pho­to­graphs showed her head ly­ing in a pool of blood.

When the pho­to­graphs were shown in court, Nen­embe and Sibeko, whose fam­i­lies were not in court, cov­ered their faces. Panayiotou looked at the pic­tures of his mur­dered wife, show­ing lit­tle emo­tion.

The al­leged hit­man, Sizweza­khe Vu­ma­zonke, died of sus­pected poi­son­ing last year.

Panayiotou hired the car used in the ab­duc­tion, and Nen­embe and Sibeko helped plan the mur­der with Vu­ma­zonke.

Nen­embe drove the car and sat in the hired ve­hi­cle as Jayde was killed.

Judge Chetty, how­ever, found Panayiotou guilty of only one crime – mur­der – but not guilty of con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der and de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice for his role in cov­er­ing up the killing.

Nen­embe was found guilty of mur­der and armed rob­bery – he stole Jayde’s bank card at gun­point and with­drew R3 500 from her ac­count – but not guilty of con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der.

Sibeko was found guilty of con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der.

As Chetty handed down his judg­ment, Panayiotou re­mained si­lent – as he has been through­out the case – his head down. The only sign of emo­tion was the ex­ag­ger­ated rose-coloured shade on his cheeks.

Fanoula has been by her son’s side through­out the trial, vis­it­ing him at the North End Prison in Port El­iz­a­beth, which is known in the neigh­bour­hood as Rooi Hel (red hell) and lies along the free­way lead­ing to the city cen­tre.

Nen­embe’s mother con­tin­ues to be­lieve in him, telling the women who came to court with her: “He must just be strong, he will over­come this. The ap­peal will re­lease him.”

Mother and son con­trasted starkly dur­ing the trial – she in her faded, dowdy clothes and he in his branded Soviet jeans, All Star sneak­ers, Pringle jer­seys and leather jacket.

Af­ter court was ad­journed, Michelle Inggs made a rare com­ment to the me­dia, say­ing: “Smile. You have ev­ery rea­son to smile now.”

Then she took hus­band Der­rick’s hand and they walked away.

They were not the only peo­ple happy to hear the judg­ment. Af­ter the case, a man who worked at the gro­cery store owned by the Panayiotou fam­ily said he was de­lighted his for­mer boss was found guilty of mur­der.

“He wasted a very beau­ti­ful and gen­tle woman. Jayde was a gen­tle soul and so kind,” he said.


TRAGEDY Fanoula Panayiotou sobbed af­ter her son Christo­pher was found guilty of plan­ning his wife’s mur­der

JUS­TICE AT LAST Michelle Inggs, Jayde’s mother, smiled as Judge Day­alin Chetty de­liv­ered his judg­ment

VIC­TIM AGAIN The mother of Sinethemba Nen­embe sup­ported her son in court through­out the trial

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