Rob Packham’s frantic WhatsApps to workmate after his wife died
Businessman told his subordinate it was the worst day of his life, but despite his anxiety, reminded him not to forget about their fictitious meeting
A year ago, Lodewyk Janse van Rensburg sent Rob Packham sympathetic messages when the businessman’s wife, Gill, disappeared. He was even prepared to lie on his behalf.
But on Tuesday, Janse van Rensburg testified against his former boss in the Cape Town High Court.
Packham, a former general manager of beverage production company Twizza, is on trial for Gill’s murder and for concealing the crime. He has pleaded not guilty.
Twizza logistics manager Janse van Rensburg said that on the day of Gill’s death, February 22 2018, Packham called him in the afternoon and asked him to lie about his whereabouts earlier that day.
Janse van Rensburg said Packham told him he had a fight with Gill the previous night and she had disappeared. He sent Packham sympathetic messages and his former boss detailed the lengths to which he had gone to find his wife.
“Hi Rob – just quickly want to find out if you are oriaat (all right) and any news – our thoughts are all with you,” was one of the WhatsApp messages Janse van Rensburg sent to Packham. The messages they exchanged have been submitted as evidence.
During the afternoon that day, Janse van Rensburg asked Packham: “All okay boss?”
Packham responded: “She is still missing. Gill left at 7. Never got to work. No response. Nobody knows where she is. Am checking police stations and hospitals. Am in state of utter panic.”
Janse van Rensburg assured him: “Please ask if you need any assistance or support.”
In one of the messages, Packham said Gill’s car had been found with an unknown body inside.
“Honestly, worst day of my life. Family is traumatised. Tragic and scary,” wrote Packham. “As I was last to see Gill I am a ‘person of interest’ to Saps, not a suspect but under scrutiny. Very difficult. They found her car burnt out with unidentified body in it. Terrifying and tragic. ID (identity) not clear until Dna (DNA) done by Wed (Wednesday) or Thur (Thursday). Sorry not much use to anyone right now.”
Despite his anxiety, Packham reminded his subordinate not to forget about their fictitious 8:30am meeting. “Nb (NB) our 8:30 hook up at the plant on tburs (Thursday) pls,” he wrote to Janse van Rensburg.
Packham allegedly killed his wife, Gill, put her body in the boot of her car and set it alight at the Diep River railway station.
According to the state, Packham was bust by licence-plate recognition cameras that showed him driving Gill’s BMW, while cellphone towers showed that he drove around Constantia on the day of her disappearance.
Gill’s charred body was found in the boot of the car after firefighters extinguished the flames. An autopsy showed that blunt-force trauma to the head had killed her.
The high court revoked Packham’s bail in December after witnesses complained that he contacted them. The trial continues.