CAPE TOWN - Western Cape High Court Judge Elize Steyn described Constantia businessman Rob Packham as an "accomplished liar" who had led a double life and whose version of events was clearly fabricated before finding him guilty of his wife's murder and defeating the ends of justice.
His wife Gill disappeared on February 22 last year. She did not arrive for work at the usual time of 7:30am and her body was later found in the boot of her burnt out BMW near the Diep River train station.
Judge Steyn rejected Packham's version that she could have been the victim of a random hijacking and instead found that Packham was "a crafty deceiver", agreeing with the State that his conduct had been indicative of guilt.
She said the totality of the evidence pointed to the guilt of the accused. "His version is clearly fabricated."
The couple had been having marital problems and had been attending counselling sessions after Packham had disclosed his infidelities.
The day before her disappearance, they had attended a session, returned home and remained there for the rest of the night, Packham testified during the trial.
Flecks of blood were found in the Packham home’s garage and bathroom. DNA analysis showed that it was Gill’s blood found in the garage, as well as the inside door handle of Packham’s car. Packham’s blood was found in the bathroom.
Packham told the court earlier in the trial that the Sunday prior to his wife’s disappearance she had taken bags of recycling to the dump after “hounding” him to do it for some time.
She had used his car, and Packham said when picking up the bags she had cut her hand. “I can only suggest it was from that.”
Her blood was also found on a compost bag, which Packham testified could have come from her cutting herself on a thorn as she was a gardening enthusiast.
Packham said his blood, found in the bathroom, could have been caused by nicking himself while shaving.
“I have a little mole or growth on the neck that has a habit of getting itself nicked. It happens several times a month. So much so that Gill wanted me to get an electric razor.”
When defence advocate Craig Webster asked Packham if he was in any way involved in causing the death of his wife, his response was vehement: “I was not, absolutely not.”
During cross-examination, senior State prosecutor Susan Galloway said witness X (Packham’s former mistress who may not be identified) had testified that Packham had told her that he loved his life, but not his wife.
Packham conceded this and testified that he had said this in early 2016.
He had also emailed his mistress several days after his wife's murder and said the madness would soon be over and then they would be together. Packham testified that he didn't remember sending the email.
In his testimony, Packham also confirmed that it was unlike his wife to disappear, it was unusual for her to take a day off, and that she had no enemies.
To which, Galloway said: “Her death must have been the result of a random hijacking or attack?”
“That is my assumption, yes. I guess so, yes,” Packham replied.
Galloway said their home alarm had been on, the dogs were outside, and there were no signs of a robbery, but Packham said she “could have been attacked in the garage”.
“I don’t know. I didn’t follow her when she left.”
On the first day of the trial, Packham’s youngest daughter Nicola testified about her parents’ troubled marriage.
She told the court she had known about her father’s affairs for several years before her mother found out in October 2017.
She said they had committed to working on their marriage, attended counselling once a week and planned to renew their vows. But the day before her disappearance, her father had said in a counselling session, that he had feelings for his mistress.
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”, she told the court.
Judge Steyn said on Monday that Packham had misled his family and his wife about terminating his relationship with his mistress and that his version had been dishonest and unreliable. Furthermore, there had been many instances where he was found to have lied or changed his version.
He had also shown little interest in finding his wife. Despite being told by the Wynberg police station to report her missing at Diep River police station, he had failed to do so. He had also not kept an appointment with the investigating officer to give his statement the day after her body was found. "The accused did not act in the manner of a distraught and later bereaved husband."
Judge Steyn said he hadn't expressed emotion when the pathologist presented gruesome evidence.
Galloway's lengthy and detailed cross examination had left him frustrated, and his responses became "cheeky" and even "snide" at times.
His defence had been a "bare denial." Judge Steyn found Packham to have been "economical with the truth", but said the state's witnesses had been honest and reliable.
Packham remained expressionless throughout the lengthy judgment. He will return to court on Tuesday for sentencing procedures.
African News Agency (ANA)