Elderly witness surprises Packham murder trial
Witness says anxious man resembling Packham sped off in a car similar to his wife's but with missing plates
A pensioner testifying in the Rob Packham murder trial caused some consternation in the courtroom on Wednesday as he pointed out a member in the public gallery as the possible killer. Paul Grey, 76, a neighbourhood watch volunteer in the suburb of Bergvliet, Cape Town, near upmarket Constantia, told the High Court in Cape Town he saw a car resembling the one belonging to Packham’s slain wife, Gill, on the day of her death. Grey said it was parked outside a house in the area and its registration plates were missing. Packham lives in Constantia.
He said while taking down notes in his notebook, a white man in shorts got into the car. The man, who seemed anxious and banged his hands inside the car, ignored him and sped off on February 22 last year. He said more than a month later, police called him to identify a possible suspect in the murder.
But then Grey was asked if the man he had seen was present in court. He replied that there were two men in court who looked alike, to a ripple of laughter in the courtroom. Even Packham smiled in the dock.
The court asked Grey to point the man out. He got into the gallery and his eyes wandered before touching Packham’s shoulder.
The court then asked him to point at the man whom he said looked like Packham and he pointed at a member of the public. The man, who wore shorts and an off-white shirt, left the courtroom afterwards – before Packham’s counsel could determine who he was.
“I looked up from my notebook and noticed a gentleman getting into the vehicle in the driver’s side,” said Grey.
“It as a white gentleman wearing shorts. At that point I proceeded my vehicle towards his vehicle. We were facing each other. I tried to indicate to the gentleman if he had seen the problem with the registration plates because someone might have stolen them. He seemed like he was anxious about something.”
Grey said the man looked at him briefly and sped off. He tried to follow him but got lost in traffic. He then attended an identity parade at the Hout Bay police station in April last year where he was shown several pictures and he recognised the man who drove way in the car to be Packham.
Packham’s counsel, Craig Webster, capitalised on Grey’s eyesight and age. He asked if he was wearing his glasses on the day and questioned how he was able to recognise Packham with ease when he had told the police that he could not clearly identify the man in the car. Webster said it had been a while before Grey attended the identity parade and Packham’s image had been published extensively in newspapers and social media and could have known what he looked like.
Earlier on Wednesday, a supervisor at a licence plate recognition control room testified that a BMW that burned at the Diep River railway station, with missing registration plates, matched Gill’s car. Gill’s charred remains were found in the boot.
Packham allegedly killed Gill, put her body in the boot of her car and set it alight at the Diep River railway station in February last year. According to the state, Packham was bust by licence 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 fire fighters extinguished the flames. A postmortem showed that blunt force trauma to the head had killed her. The trial continues.