November 7, 2017

Panayiotou verdict: Faith restored

 

On Thursday last week, Christopher Panayiotou and his co-accused were convicted of the murder of his wife, Jayde.

Do yourself a favour and read the entire judgment.

Following a high profile trial in the media gives you a bit of a disjointed picture of the case.  As you read the reports of each day’s proceedings, it is difficult to develop a clear picture of the case. One day it seems that the evidence against the accused is overwhelming, then the next day you read about the cross-examination and the statements by the defence and it seems as if holes have been poked in the state’s case. After reading the daily reports during the many months of the trial, it is difficult to predict the outcome when it ends. One is left with a sense of conviction that the accused is guilty, but also with a sense of foreboding that he or she is going to get off on one of the technicalities raised by the defence.

The judgment pulls it all together. The evidence is logically analysed and weighed up and the story is laid bare.

And, in the Panayiotou case, what a sordid story it is! It is the stuff that crime novels are made of. It beggars belief that there are people around us who seem so ordinary and harmless, in this case a supermarket owner who probably smiled at the little old ladies squeezing the avocado pears, who are so callous that they will set in motion a sequence of events that will rob their wife of her young life.

I enjoy a good crime novel, or police procedural as they are now called, and the facts of the Panayiotou case are a not uncommon plot in these.  But I find the realisation that there are ordinary looking people among us in society who will actually perpetrate such an evil deeply shocking.

One thing that shines through in the Panayiotou judgment is the quality of the police work and investigation. The police get a bad rap on social media. All the photos and videos of them sleeping on duty, using police vehicles to move furniture, taking bribes, being unable to write properly (in what is not their first language) and being generally incompetent can easily make one despondent and assume that the entire force is a farce. But the Panayiotou judgment highlights just how good the detectives were.

The quality of the prosecution also shines through in the judgment.

It gives me a great deal of comfort that, while there are people out there who will murder those who they should love and protect for money, for freedom or simply because they cannot control their tempers, we have a criminal justice system that ensures that they are not likely to get away with it. And the Pistorius case and the fact that there are 3 other criminal trials currently under way where men are accused of murdering their wives, parents and/or siblings demonstrate that the Panayiotou case was not a happy exception.

 

Robin Twaddle

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