The post-mortem report on the Constantia mother of two, who was found face-down in the boot of her burnt-out BMW on February 22 last year, does not speculate how many blows hit her head, to cause those injuries.
But the force was brutal enough to cause fatal brain trauma.
“Fracture of the lower jaw on the right-hand side associated with acute haemorrhage into the upper neck soft tissues,” reports State pathologist Dr Itumeleng Molefe in her chief post-mortem findings.
“Signs of blunt head injury with depressed and hinged fractures of the skull, meningeal haemorrhages, and injuries to underlying brain.”
Molefe’s report was submitted as evidence on Monday, at the start of wife killer accused Rob Packham’s High Court trial, after he made a number of admissions.
These include that Packham accepts the post-mortem findings and cause of death: “Unnatural: Blunt traumatic head injuries and the consequences thereof. The body was burnt post-mortem.”
Molefe was able to determine the latter after finding no soot in Gill’s airways and zero traces of carbon monoxide in her blood.
She reminds us how petite Gill was: 1.5m tall, just 47kg and a body mass index of 20.9. Then the reminder that this is not a medical aid print-out.
“Despite the charring, appeared to have been lean.”
Molefe also reminds us that before being murdered, Gill was a woman on her way to work before she was cut down in her garage and then dumped face-down in the boot of her BMW. She was still wearing her wedding ring when she was set alight and Molefe estimated that she had recently eaten a meal of meat and mushrooms.
Although 90% of Gill’s body was charred from an accelerant that smelt like petrol, Molefe gleaned that she was wearing matching light green underwear, a black and white checked shirt and “remnants of what appears to have been a pair of black tights present around the left knee”.
She also noted that some of Gill’s clothes were torn, that her bra was unclipped and that her “panty was off on the right-hand side possibly due to burning of the material”. But she found no evidence she was sexually assaulted.
He did however, discover traces of a plastic arm brace that reveals Gill was nursing a fractured left hand when she was murdered. How she sustained this injury will be revealed later in the trial.
Molefe also uncovered “suspicious contusions” to Gill’s left forearm which suggests she may have tried to ward off her attacker before she was mortally struck on the head.
For a deeper analysis of Gill’s wounds, Molefe turned to Dr Louise Friedling, a highly-experienced UCT forensic anthropologist.
Gill Packham may have been burnt beyond recognition after being murdered. But the desecration of her body was not enough to silence her, according to Friedling’s report.
“The trauma is blunt force trauma occurring peri-mortem as is seen by the extensive bleed patterns around the sites of impact at the right mandible (jawbone) and right temporal bone” she noted.
“There is a fracture on the mandible on the right side through the body of the mandible." In other words Gill was hit so hard it broke her jaw in two.
Gill also suffered longitudinal and transverse fractures to her skull. “The initial impact was hard enough to cause the right side of the occipital bone to present with transverse (radiating) fractures on it,” noted Friedling.
The impact was also fatal. So much so that Gill was dying by the time she sustained the fractures to the left-hand side of her skull, possibly from another blow or when she hit the ground.
“Gill’s fractures are a sign that she was beaten with moerse force,” said a forensic expert after reading the report. “Although it’s hard to say my guess is that she was hit with something heavy like a lamp stand or a plank.”
The murder weapon has never been recovered, but the State will continue leading evidence next week that supports their charges that Gill’s husband of 30 years murdered her in their Constantia home.
They will also reveal that he attempted to defeat the ends of justice by removing all traces of blood from the garage and their bathroom and then burnt Gill’s body at Diep River railway station to destroy evidence.
Packham, who pleaded not guilty on Monday, is being held at Pollsmoor.