CAPE TOWN - The youngest daughter of Rob Packham, who is accused of murdering his wife, testified in the Western Cape High Court on Monday about her parents' troubled marriage and her father's infidelities.
Nicola Packham, 26, told the court she had known about her father's affairs for several years before her mother found out in October 2017.
Before she began her testimony, Judge Elizabeth Steyn granted an application to bar the media from recording the proceedings live as Packham did not want her face identified.
Rob Packham is accused of murder and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly killing his wife Gill Packham in February last year. He has pleaded not guilty.
On the day she went missing, February 22, she did not arrive for work at Springfield Convent School, where she worked as a secretary, at the usual time of 7.30am. Her body was later found in the boot of a burnt out BMW near Diep River train station.
The State alleges that her husband used a blunt object to hit her on the head and, with the alleged intention of obstructing the course of justice, set her BMW on fire while her body was in it.
Nicola Packham told the court that when the school contacted her at about 9am on the morning of her mother's disappearance, she thought that her parents were at their marriage counsellor.
She had been living with her parents, but had moved to Johannesburg about ten days before her mother was murdered.
She testified that her parents' relationship had been better than in previous months.
"They had been working on communicating more, spending time together. It seemed they were starting a new relationship, it was good at the time."
They were also planning to renew their vows, and her father was considering buying her a car for her birthday the following month.
She said her father had told her mother about his affair in October 2017 after she "insisted he speak to her" as it was "time she knew what was going on".
The two had committed to weekly marriage counselling sessions and Rob Packham bought his wife an infinity ring of white gold and diamonds in December.
They wrote new vows for each other and committed to making the marriage work.
Nicola said her parents were also seeing individual therapists, and her mother had been prescribed medication for her emotional distress.
On February 21, the day before Gill Packham's disappearance, they had seen their marriage counsellor. Nicola said they had spoken about the person her father had been seeing.
Previously, he had said he did not have feelings for her, but in that session he disclosed that he did, and "mom was very upset about it".
Nicola also testified about the course of events on the day of her mother's disappearance. She had first heard from the school at 9am and thereafter had battled to reach her father until later that morning.
She had then received regular updates from him as he drove to different locations. At one point he was in tears, "very distressed and very panicky" as he had exhausted possible places where she could be.
Later that day, Nicola posted a missing person alert on social media. She was contacted by "Aidan" who said he had contacts in the police and would try and assist her.
He called her that night to say a car matching her mother's had been found at the Diep River train station. A body was in the boot of the car and she was told to "expect the worst".
She called her father, and he went to the Diep River police station with his sister and a family friend.
The following day Nicola flew to Cape Town.
Nicola remained composed throughout her testimony and hugged family members after being excused from the stand.
The trial continues on Tuesday.
African News Agency (ANA)