Packham your bags and go to jail, wife killer told
Judge paints picture of an agitated, disinterested and cheating husband, and finds him guilty of murder
The Rob Packham who sat stoically in the dock in the High Court in Cape Town could not have been more different from the picture of the man being painted during the delivery of judgment in his murder trial.
Judge Elizabeth Steyn delivered a four-hour judgment on Monday, eventually finding Packham guilty of murdering his wife, Gill, to whom he was married for 31 years.
During the reading out of the decision, glances at his family and slow shakes of his head marked his demeanour as he listened intently. But Steyn painted him very differently: an agitated, disinterested and cheating husband.
Steyn, who found Packham guilty of murder and obstructing justice, called his behaviour on February 22 2018, the day his wife Gill died, and onwards as “incomprehensible”.
The baffling actions started with his multiple requests for a false alibi, said Steyn, in a “transparent attempt at manipulation”.
Packham said he never saw Gill after she left for work at 7am, leaving later to look at cars to surprise her with for her birthday. He asked a colleague to tell Gill or anyone else who called looking for him that he was in a meeting all morning.
“This testimony is suspicious and improbable,” Steyn said.
She questioned his need to do this “in absolute secrecy” because he realised his cellphone data would give his movements away.
After his wife’s workplace notified him of her failure to clock in, he began to look for her on his own, only phoning his wife twice while repeatedly contacting his sister and daughter.
“If he thought his wife was missing, it would be serious enough to warrant everyone’s assistance,” Steyn said.
When Packham went to formally file a missing persons report with the Wynberg police, he said officers told him he needed to instead go to the Diep River police station. He never made it to the Diep River police, a fact Steyn found troubling.
“The accused did not act in the manner of a distraught husband,” she said.
After his wife’s body was found in the boot of her burning BMW at Diep River railway station, Packham asked to postpone a meeting with detectives because he was too tired. He missed the rescheduled meeting after going for a morning drive.
“I would expect him to apologise profusely [for missing the meeting] … instead, he complained,” she said, a telltale sign of his disinterest in the investigation.
During the trial, Packham’s composure often “disintegrated”, and he offered “responses to questions that were inappropriate and casual”.
“He acted in a manner incompatible with that of a reasonable person in that situation,” she said. “He showed frustration and impatience [in court] … sometimes snide comments.”
Packham repeatedly contacted his mistress, even after his wife’s death, and a court order prohibited him from doing so.
“Judging by his e-mail to his ex-mistress, he thought he could continue his life, with her by his side,” she said.
In addition to Packham’s behaviour, Steyn noted the evidence helped the state prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, slamming the defence’s questioning of the credibility of state witnesses.
One witness testified to seeing Packham slam the steering wheel while inside his wife’s BMW the afternoon of her death, and two others said they saw Packham in his vehicle speeding away from the burning car at Diep River railway station.
“Witness testimony must be considered in the totality of the evidence,” Steyn said.
Other evidence included tyre tracks found at Diep River that were a possible match to those of Packham’s vehicle, cellphone tower records that placed him near sightings of Gill’s BMW and Gill’s blood found in their garage.
It was Packham’s own “dishonest and unreliable testimony” that ended the trial.
“The accused has shown to be an accomplished liar and deceiver,” Steyn said.
Proceedings will continue at 10am on Tuesday.