Rob Packham in the Western Cape High Court. Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – The defence is of the opinion that alleged wife killer Rob Packham had been targeted by detectives from the start of their investigation and that he was treated like a suspect and not a witness.

This was heard in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday. Packham has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife Gill and a charge of obstruction of justice. 

Advocate Craig Webster, for Packham, took the investigating officer in the case, Sergeant Ivan Sonnenberg, to task over perceived irregularities in how his client was treated, News24 reported.

Webster claimed that officers had it in for Packham from the moment they entered his home on February 23, 2018, the day after his wife's remains were found in the boot of her burnt-out car in Diep River.

Even though Packham was not yet a suspect, it was unusual that they had not allowed him to travel in his own car to the police station, Webster said. Netwerk24 reported that Sonnenberg said he couldn't remember the reason why this had been the case.

Webster said: "He says your attitude and the other police officers towards him was hostile when he arrived there (at home)." Sonnenberg said that wasn't true.

He also denied that they had seized Packham's cellphone, saying it was willingly handed over at the police station so they could exclude him as a suspect. 

Sonnenberg said cellphone records was one of the reasons why Packham had been arrested, with the records not backing up the statement Packham had made, for example, that he had been looking for his wife at Chapman's Peak on the day of her murder.

Webster said his client had offered to sit for a polygraph test but was told it wasn't necessary. Sonnenberg said he could not remember everything that happened.

Webster continued that his client had not matched the witness statement in the police's possession at the time, describing a driver at the crime scene as a "coloured male, light complexion, 30 to 35 years".

Sonnenberg said they had based their arrest on various findings, including the deceased's identity, cellphone records and video footage from the neighbourhood watch "which matched what he looked like".

Webster said the photo identity parade was "artificial and contrived". Sonnenberg said he had struggled to find suspects at other police stations who looked similar to Packham and had to request a photo parade over a line-up.

It was also pointed out to Sonnenberg that the identity parade was held seven weeks after Packham's first court appearance and that witnesses could have seen photos of him in the media.

The defence pointed out other irregularities such as transporting witnesses together to an identity parade and not taking statements from an elderly couple who rented a flatlet adjoining the family home.

Webster asked: "You said that Packham did not explain his or his wife's blood at their home. Did you ask?"

Sonnenberg replied that they interviewed him the day after the blood was found at the premises. "I didn't interview him personally but I am sure we would have asked."

Webster concluded: "You have not been involved in a fair and even-handed investigation. It has been targeted and biased against the accused."

"I have no reason to target anybody in this case. I never wanted to maliciously arrest Mr Packham for this case. I did everything I needed to do," Sonnenberg said.

Webster continued that it would be his submission that there was never a proper basis for Packham's arrest.

Judge Eliza Steyn asked Sonnenberg at the end of the day when it was that he had started becoming suspicious regarding Packham. Sonnenberg said on the day his wife's body had been identified, he thought Packham could be a possible suspect.

Earlier in the day, reported that Sonnenberg said blood droplets had been found in the garage on the inside of the door on the driver’s side of the accused’s car, and on the basin of the en-suite bathroom at the couple’s Constantia home.

DNA tests showed the blood in the garage and car belonged to Gill, while the blood droplets in the en-suite bathroom of the main bedroom belonged to Packham.

The detective said while searching the garage they found a broken axe in between lots of linen. The axe was sprayed to check for DNA but officers found nothing. 

The case continues on Monday.

Cape Times