‘Suspicion is not evidence’: Packham’s lawyer rips into state’s ...

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‘Suspicion is not evidence’: Packham’s lawyer rips into state’s case

Pieces of evidence in trial of 'wife killer' should be judged individually for their reliability, defence argues

Sumin Woo


“Suspicion does not suffice,” suspected wife killer Rob Packham’s lawyer told the High Court in Cape Town on Thursday.
Packham is accused of killing his wife, putting her body in the boot of her car and setting it alight at Diep River railway station. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and defeating the administration of justice.
In his closing argument, Craig Webster was attempting to dismantle the state’s case that the 57-year-old Constantia businessman killed his wife, Gill, then burnt her body in the boot of her BMW.
Webster said Packham’s testimony in his own defence had been “favourable”, with concessions about his involvement with another woman and details about how he spent the day of Gill’s disappearance, February 22 2018.
When Packham heard that a car matching the description of his wife’s was burning at Diep River railway station, said Webster, he was accompanied by acquaintances to the scene.
Officers there told Packham he could not get closer and to go to the police station, Webster said.
But Judge Elizabeth Steyn said this did not make sense. “If I were him, I would have made more effort to see what was going on … so don’t tell me he would not be ‘so stupid as to get closer’,” she told Webster.
“At that stage [seeing his wife’s car], he should have been totally, totally frightened.”
Packham then postponed a meeting with the police that evening, citing exhaustion. He missed the rescheduled meeting because he was on a “scenic drive”, according to the prosecution.
Webster continued to pick apart the state’s case, calling the tyre tracks found at Diep River station only a possible match. He repeated Packham’s claim that Gill’s blood in their garage was from an earlier incident when she was taking out the recycling.
Packham requested an alibi from his work colleague for the morning of February 22, allegedly so his wife would not know he was looking at cars to buy for her.
“Nothing in asking for that alibi frames the accused,” Webster said, noting that the colleague was prepared to offer it to anyone who asked for Packham, not just his wife.
While Packham’s work phone was switched off, his personal phone remained on.
“He wasn’t trying to conceal his movements, just conceal his activities in the morning from the deceased,” Webster said. “He called the deceased’s cellphone during the day.”
Prosecutor Susan Galloway directly responded: “That phone has minimal recorded activity, and just because the phone was on, doesn’t mean it was with him.”
Webster called for pieces of evidence to be judged individually for their reliability.
“The state’s approach has been to put everything into the mix and argue the probabilities,” he said.
“You do not use separate incidents,” Steyn replied. “This is a holistic assessment.”
But Webster said: “Suspicion does not suffice. At every turn, there’s a finger pointing at the accused. He hasn’t been coy about what he was doing.”
Judgment is expected on May 16. ​

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