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Tough on men who hurt women: The judge who'll decide Panayiotou’s fate

17 November 2017 - 10:21 By Staff Reporter
Christopher Panayiotou with his lawyer Advocate Terry Price and his family at the Port Elizabeth Magistrates' Court on June 4, 2015 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Christopher Panayiotou with his lawyer Advocate Terry Price and his family at the Port Elizabeth Magistrates' Court on June 4, 2015 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Gallo Images / The Herald / Eugene Coetzee

Judge Dayalin Chetty is a respected legal mind with more than 18 years on the bench. His no-nonsense attitude and on-point judgments have kept the legal fraternity on their toes for almost two decades as his rulings have survived appeal after appeal. It has made him one of the most respected presiding officers in the Eastern Cape High Court division.

Chetty is now preparing to pronounce on the fate of murder accused Christopher Panayiotou and his two co-accused for the conspiracy to murder the businessman’s schoolteacher wife Jayde.

A scroll through some of his previous trials shows a distaste of criminality‚ and a protectiveness towards women whose lives end up in his court.

In 2002‚ Chetty delivered a landmark judgment in which he found the State liable for damages suffered by Alix Carmichele‚ a photographer who was attacked in Noetzie by a violent criminal with a history of sexual assault.

Carmichele‚ represented by Advocate Terry Price‚ had sued the then-minister of safety and security for negligence for failing to keep the perpetrator in custody pending a rape trial.

Chetty’s career began after he attended the University of Durban-Westville where he obtained his BA in 1975. In 1977‚ he obtained his law degree.

He became one of the first black advocates to join the Port Elizabeth Bar in 1979‚ a stint which lasted until 1999‚ when he landed a permanent spot on the bench of the South Eastern Cape Local High Court division.

In the 1980s‚ an entire block of Chetty’s suburb of Malabar was sealed off by police as they raided his house to arrest anti-apartheid struggle leaders Valli Moosa and Murphy Morobe. He had been hiding them at his home.

The United Democratic Front pair had been on the run from the police for more than a year when they were arrested and detained under security laws in 1987. They later sensationally escaped from a hospital and took refuge in the US.

Between 1996 and 1998‚ Chetty held a spot on the bench of the Constitutional Court‚ and between 2000 and 2001‚ he acted as a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

FROM OUR ARCHIVES - Highlights of notable trials handled by Judge Chetty‚ and the jail time he gave the perpetrators

OCTOBER 2002 - KILLER OF DP COUNCILLOR’S WIFE JAILED FOR LIFE

A Bedford youth was sentenced in the Port Elizabeth High Court to life imprisonment for the murder of Margaret Africa‚ wife of former DP councillor Tommy Africa.

Mr Justice Dayalin Chetty said there was no doubt in his mind Jonathan Hare‚ 20‚ was a “danger to society” – even though he was a first offender – and needed to be permanently removed from society.

Most aggravating was the manner in which Mrs Africa‚ 49‚ of Arcadia‚ was murdered. Judge Chetty said the petite Mrs Africa was a defenceless woman‚ yet Hare used the utmost brutal force when he crushed her head and ribs with a rock the size of a rugby ball.

The court noted that even Pastor Africa‚ who had been married to his wife for 29 years‚ could not recognise her body except for a tattoo mark.

According to the evidence‚ Mrs Africa was returning home after visiting her sister on March 9 this year when she was believed to have asked Hare to accompany her‚ for safety reasons‚ through an area considered dangerous. Preying on her vulnerability‚ Hare accompanied her only to become the attacker. 

FEBRUARY 2003 - GANG LEADER BRAMWELL GETS DOUBLE LIFE FOR CONTRACT KILLINGS

Double life sentences were handed down to prison gang leader Adam Bramwell and his henchman‚ Bramwell Trimalley‚ for the contract killings of two northern area residents in June 1998.

Port Elizabeth High Court Judge Dayalin Chetty found Bramwell‚ 28‚ of Bethelsdorp‚ and Trimalley‚ 27‚ of Booysens Park‚ guilty of the murders of Alfred “Oupa” Witbooi and Anna Dampies.

Mrs Dampies was shot at her Arcadia home in an attempt to silence her son‚ Freddie‚ from testifying against Bramwell and other gang members who were on trial for the 1997 robbery-motivated murders of SABC cameraman Eddie Ellis and Swartkops resident Christina Lombard.

Evidence was heard that Mr Witbooi was initially contracted by the gang to murder Mrs Dampies.

He was bailed out of prison‚ but when he failed to carry out the orders‚ the gang had him murdered because he knew too much. The killings were carried out by Trimalley‚ a former employee in the printing department of Johnnic Publishing.

Other gang members who turned State witnesses were granted indemnity from prosecution for the killings. 

NOVEMBER 2003 - JUDGE PRAISES BRAVE RAPE VICTIMS

A judge has praised the courage shown by two Walmer women – one a doctor’s wife and the other a former Springbok squash player – in testifying at the trial of a rapist jailed for life.

PE High Court Judge Dayalin Chetty commended Angela Difford‚ 77‚ who went public after the rape‚ and the doctor’s wife‚ who may not be identified‚ for their faith in the legal system. He found it courageous of them to take the stand and relive their ordeals at the hands of rapist Vuyani Mbalaleni‚ 26‚ of Walmer Township.

The women came face-to-face with Mbalaleni almost exactly a year after the attacks on them.

Evidence‚ which was heard in camera‚ painted a picture of two women who were left “extremely traumatised” by the attacks because they also feared they might have contracted Aids.

In evidence‚ Mbalaleni said he obtained a job with a gardening service in Walmer and had worked three doors away from the home of the doctor’s wife. He attacked her and tried to rape her‚ but could not get an erection.

Eight days later‚ while Mrs Difford was walking her dogs in Settlers Park‚ he attacked and raped her three times. The attack on Mrs Difford‚ who is in charge of EP Squash development programmes in the northern areas and in the townships‚ led to an extensive police search for Mbalaleni.

At the time of the attack‚ she went public expressing her concern for the safety of those who made use of the park.

It was also learnt that a short while before the assault‚ police were notified by three concerned callers from Target Kloof about a prowler in the area. While police were attending to the rape complaint‚ Mbalaleni was caught just a few streets away breaking into a motor vehicle.

Judge Chetty jailed him for life for raping Mrs Difford‚ 20 years for the attempted rape of the doctor’s wife‚ 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances‚ and two years for the illegal possession of a firearm. 

NOVEMBER 2003 - JAILED FOR 25 YEARS FOR ‘BRUTAL AND SAVAGE’ KILLING OF EMPLOYER

Grahamstown - Fort Beaufort gardener Funda Yeko‚ who brutally murdered and robbed his 66-year-old employer in December‚ 2002‚ was convicted in the High Court and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However‚ the sentences will run concurrently‚ meaning he will sit in jail for 25 years.

Judge Dayalin Chetty sentenced 19-year-old Yeko‚ of Mark Valley township‚ to 25 years for the murder of pensioner June von der Decken and 15 years for her robbery.

Judge Chetty said Yeko deserved a long sentence‚ because the crime he committed was “brutal” and “premeditated” and he showed no remorse.

At the time of the murder‚ Yeko lived on Mrs Von der Decken’s property where he worked as a gardener. Yeko entered Mrs Von der Decken’s house‚ pushed her to the floor and then bound and gagged her. She was then strangled to death. 

JUNE 2006 - 'WOMEN SHOULD LIVE WITHOUT FEAR'

Port Elizabeth northern areas serial rapist Alwin Ashtin le Roux‚ 37‚ of Bloemendal‚ was sentenced to an effective 35 years’ imprisonment by Judge Dayalin Chetty.

Chetty said women should be free to live their lives without fear of being raped. It was the court’s responsibility to send a strong message to society that it would punish anybody who took away a woman’s dignity in such a degrading and violent way.

State advocate Jason Thysse had called several witnesses who testified how Le Roux would meet them at offices of the department of labour in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage and convince them that he could get them good jobs at factories or businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay. His crimes occurred from 2004 to early 2005.

Judge Chetty said when he heard the first witness‚ he had thought it was a very naive woman who would go with a stranger to an isolated place. But later‚ after hearing all seven women testify‚ he realised Le Roux was a cunning manipulator who used untruths to abuse the women’s desperation to find work.

He used false phone calls to so-called bosses‚ asked for matric certificates and even spoke to security staff at factory gates to create the impression he was a legitimate labour consultant. This charade created the means for him to lure women away. 

SEPTEMBER 2016 - LIFE SENTENCES FOR KILLERS OF WITNESS

Three men behind the cold-blooded execution of a witness‚ who was shot multiple times and left to die‚ were each sentenced to life in prison.

While the families and friends of Ndumiso Booi‚ 24‚ Mzolimo Makisi‚ 33‚ and Mawethu Khaka‚ 29‚ filled the gallery of the Port Elizabeth High Court as Judge Dayalin Chetty delivered his judgment‚ the family of their victim was glaringly absent.

State advocate Marius Stander said Zanele Jonga’s mother – a colonel in the South African Police Service – was too traumatised to face her daughter’s killers as they were finally convicted of the 2013 shooting.

“This is one of the most heinous of crimes‚” Stander said.

Chetty found that the cellphone evidence‚ although circumstantial‚ proved unequivocally that Booi had ordered Makisi and Khaka to carry out the hit on Jonga‚ 32‚ on June 12 2013.

Jonga had in October 2012 pointed Booi out in a lineup as the man who robbed her and her boss as he gave her a lift home one evening.

Two days before she was due to testify against him‚ she was assassinated outside her workplace. 

- Compiled by Tiso Blackstar Digital‚ from group titles' archives

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