Murder: When lovers are the prime suspects

SA has seen numerous cases of partners killing or allegedly involved in the death of their loved ones.

Thandi Maqubela was found guilty of the murder of her husband acting judge Patrick Maqubela. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The arrest of Jayde Panayiotous's husband in connection with her murder has been met with shock, with scores of people posting messages to social networks noting their disbelief that someone close to the Port Elizabeth teacher could have been involved in her disappearance and death.

Her body was found on the outskirts of a Uitenhage township last week after she had been reported missing. Panayiotou was a junior grade teacher at Riebeek College Girls' High School in Uitenhage. She was laid to rest on Tuesday.

Jayde and Christopher Panayiotou. Picture: via

Chris Panayiotou's arrest in connection with his wife's murder is the latest case in which a spouse has been implicated in a crime against their partner.

Eyewitness News looks back at some of the cases which have made headlines in South Africa in recent years.


South African Paralympic and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he shot and killed his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

In the early hours of 14 February 2013, Pistorius shot her four times through the bathroom door of his Pretoria home. He then claimed he acted in self-defence as he thought she was an intruder. A day after the incident he was charged with murder and also faced three gun-related charges.

His trial started on 3 March 2014, presided over by Judge Thokozile Masipa. The long, first televised trial in South African history, lasted about five months, saw numerous witnesses and a 30-day psychiatric evaluation of the athlete.

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp at the SA Sports Awards on 4 November 2012. Picture: AFP.

It took Masipa three days to deliver her verdict, ruling that Pistorius was guilty of culpable homicide in the death of Steenkamp. He was also found guilty of being negligent of discharging a firearm at Tasha's Melrose Arch, a public place.

On 21 October 2014, he was sentenced to five years for culpable homicide and three years, wholly suspended, for the Tasha's shooting. He is currently serving his sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Pretoria and the legal see-saw is still ongoing between the defence and the state, with one appeal after the other.


Normally when a newly married couple is on honeymoon, they take lots of pictures, try out new food, and tour their honeymoon destination, making great memories. Unfortunately for Anni Dewani, she never made it back home when she came to South Africa with her husband British business man, Shrien Dewani.

On 13 November 2012, the Dewani couple's taxi was hijacked as their chauffeur drove them through the Gugulethu township in Cape Town. Dewani managed to escape but his wife was killed.

Her body was found the next morning in the back of the abandoned vehicle, and it was later revealed that she died from a gunshot wound in the neck. A few days later Dewani left South Africa and three suspects, Xolile Mngeni, Mzwamadoda Qwabe and Zola Tongo, were arrested in connection with Anni's death. They were found guilty and sentenced, claiming Dewani offered them money to kill his bride.

Shrien and Anni Dewani. Picture: Supplied.

Dewani's extradition battle dragged on but on 8 April he landed on African soil and his trial was set for 6 October 2014.

Mngeni died before the end of the trial, but Qwabe and Tongo implicated Dewani as they took the stand and gave detailed testimony of the "plot to kill Anni". On 8 December 2014, Western Cape deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso acquitted Dewani and the following day he flew out of South Africa a free man.


Chanelle Henning was not a well-known figure nor was she married to one.

The 24-year-old mother was shot dead on 8 November 2011, just moments after dropping off her son at pre-school in Faerie Glen, east of Pretoria.

At the time of her death, she was involved in a custody battle and divorce proceedings with her estranged husband Nico Henning and had managed to escape another attempt to have her killed. Police allege Nico was the mastermind behind her death. He was also implicated by the two convicted killers, Andre Gouws and Ambrose Monye.

Chanelle Henning. Picture: Supplied.

On 4 February 2014 her killers were sentenced to life in prison in the North Gauteng High Court. Last year, Nico was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly hiring the hitmen to kill his wife. The indictment served on Nico sets out how he allegedly supplied the men with intimate details about his wife's address and movements.

It contains a list of 24 state witnesses, including the convicted hitmen, Nico's former close friend Gouws and Monye.

His trial is set for five days in October this year.


On 7 June 2009 acting judge Patrick Maqubela's body was found in his luxury apartment in Bantry Bay.

At first police believed he'd suffered a heart attack, but later a murder docket was opened against his wife Thandi and fellow businessman Vela Mabena. The Maqubela's marriage was rocked by claims of infidelity.

In April 2010 Maqubela was released on R100,000 bail, and the trial was set to sit from April to May 2011. But there were several delays for a range of reasons, including allowing her time to change lawyers and to get treatment in hospital. The trial finally started in October 2011.

Convicted murderer Thandi Maqubela is handcuffed after sentencing in the High Court before she is led to the holding cells. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

The state alleged the acting judge was suffocated, while the defence claimed he died of natural causes. The twist came when the court found out that Maqubela had forged her husband's will and fraudulently presenting it to the Johannesburg office of the Master of the High Court in order to benefit from his fortune.

Dubbed the 'Black widow', Thandi Maqubela appeared calm with her sunglasses on throughout the trial and was convicted in 2013. On 31 March 2015 she was sentenced to 18 years in prison - 15 years for murder, three years for fraud and three years for forgery, which will run concurrently.

She is currently serving her sentence, and there is no word of an appeal being launched.


One of South Africa's best known theatre personalities Taliep Petersen was shot dead at his home on 16 December 2006.

On 18 June 2007, his wife Najwa was arrested at the family home. She and three other people were arrested were charged with premeditated murder. The trial got underway on 7 April 2008 in Cape Town. But like most of them, there were some delays.

During the lengthy trial, the court heard that Najwa was the one who pulled the trigger, that she was not a "helpless woman", how the hired assassin knew that he would get caught, and how the fact that the popular musician had lost R4 million given to him by his wife for business transactions, including a pyramid scheme, gave Najwa the motive to murder him.

Convicted murderer, Najwa Petersen. Picture: EWN.

The trial saw all the accused, Najwa, Abdoer Emjedi and Waheed Hassen, take the stand and give their version of events. All three were convicted of murder on 2 December 2008. Two months later Judge Siraj Desai sentenced Najwa Petersen to 28 years in prison.

She is still serving her sentence and was refused leave to appeal her conviction in May 2009.


Avhatakali Netshisaulu, the son of City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu, was found in the boot of his car after he had been burnt alive in a bush in Honeydew on 7 December 2006.

It came to light later that Netshisaulu's widow Mulalo Sivhidzo had hired two men, Ntambudzeni Matzhenene and Arnold Sello, to kidnap and murder her husband and offered them money. In a trial that lasted two years, the court heard clear details of how Sivhidzo drove the car that her husband would use later to the meeting that took place on the morning of his death and the plan to kill him.

Convicted murderer, Mulalo Sivhidzho. Picture: EWN.

On 1 December 2010, while on the stand, Sivhidzho confessed to killing her husband in the Johannesburg High Court. Exactly two years after his death Sivhidzo and her two co-accused were found guilty of kidnapping, robbery and murder. It was suspected that her motive might have been financial gain and her alleged mental disorders were thought to have played a role.

On 28 February 2011 she was sentenced to life in prison.

The trio are still serving their life sentences.