Rob Packham has proved himself a “very good actor” by living a double life, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday.
This was said by Judge Elize Steyn during the defence’s closing arguments.
Defence advocate Craig Webster questioned why his client would return to Diep River station where his wife’s car was alight minutes after ostensibly being seen by witness Keanan Thomas driving away in his white Audi.
Thomas had told police he had seen a coloured man in his mid-30s driving away from the station when he had been near the scene of the fire on February 22, 2018.
Steyn pointed out that the driver had been wearing a cap, and the interior light of the car had been on. This may have affected the appearance of his complexion, she countered.
Webster had argued that it made no sense for Packham to return to the scene after being seen by a witness as he faced being recognised by Thomas.
Steyn, however, countered that his client was a “very good actor”.
She said he had lived a double life while hiding his affair from his late wife Gill as he had claimed to have been trying to save his marriage while receiving couples counselling, all the while planning a weekend getaway with his mistress.
Steyn also found Packham’s behaviour strange when he arrived with relatives and friends at Diep River station where Gill’s car was alight.
Packham hadn’t gone near the burning vehicle and had complied with authorities who told him to steer clear of the scene.
“If my husband was potentially burning in a car, I most certainly would have gone to see what was going on,” Steyn commented.
She said she would have expected a pro-active stance from a husband who must have believed his missing wife was still inside the green BMW.
“He should have been totally frantic.”
Webster said extramarital affairs involved deceit and untruths, but this wouldn’t make those who committed them murderers.
He further argued that the evidence of the two eyewitnesses who identified Packham should not carry any weight.
Local neighbourhood watch member Paul Gray, 76, testified that he had seen a green BMW without number plates parked at the side of the road in Constantia on the day of Gill’s disappearance.
He identified Packham as the man who had gotten into the car and who had slammed his hands on the steering wheel of the car when he had driven up to the vehicle.
Webster, however, said Gray – who wears bifocals and long distance sunglasses – had conceded that he couldn’t get a good look at the person as both of their windows were closed. He later also couldn’t describe the man when asked by police.
Gray had also wavered when asked in court to identify the man he had seen. He had walked through the courtroom before eventually placing his hand on Packham’s shoulder.
Steyn said she thought the witness should be commended as he wanted to make sure he chose the right person.
Webster countered that the picture it painted was that Gray was not certain.
He further argued that Packham had made extensive admissions after pleading not guilty, including affidavits pertaining to his movements on the day of this wife’s murder. His version of his whereabouts was materially corroborated by his cellphone data, Webster said.
He also criticised the police’s investigation of the murder, saying the case was built around his client as the probe focused on Packham from the outset.
Judgment is expected on May 16.
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