“I did not change the tyres of my car, my lady.”
This is what an adamant Rob Packham told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, when the State confronted him about two tyre types found on his Audi Q5 at different times last year.
As pointed out by prosecutor Susan Galloway, a tyre track expert had concluded that tyres on the vehicle shortly after the murder could possibly have made the tyre impression discovered where Gill’s Packham’s burnt remains and vehicle were found on February 22, 2018.
The initial tyre photos were taken on February 23, as Packham testified on Monday, when police arrived at his Constantia home and seemed intent on photographing his vehicle with their cellphones.
Tyre track analyst Captain Danie van der Westhuizen testified that, when he examined the tyres on the Audi at the Diep River police station six months later, on August 3 last year, “the pattern was totally different”.
Galloway asked Packham on Tuesday: “Why did you go and change the tyres on the vehicle?”
Packham appeared not to follow the question and then objected to it and the insinuation of an ulterior motive.
“I told you, I don’t know those tyres. I don’t know if they are mine. I assume they are not”
Galloway directed him to the photos of his vehicle taken at different times.
Packham said he knew the photos with his number plate were of his vehicle, but he could not say the same for the photos of his tyres, which did not show a number plate.
Perplexed, Galloway said he had admitted at the start of the trial that the photos were of his vehicle.
Packham replied: “This picture of my tyres, I honestly don’t know.”
Galloway charged: “Are you trying to suggest that police sneaked [sic] in photos of another vehicle’s tyres?”
Packham said he had seen police officers taking photos of the front of his car, but was not in attendance when the other photos were taken.
Judge Elize Steyn intervened. “Is that your garage?” she asked. Packham confirmed it was.
He cast doubt, however, saying that the photos could be of anyone’s vehicle. He was also not a tyre expert, so could not comment on specific questions related to tracks.
Then Packham said he was not disputing the photos, but admitting them.
The match of the crime scene impression with the tyres first observed on the Audi. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)
Packham said he was at his sister’s house in Tokai for dinner the evening his wife’s body and green BMW was found, and not anywhere near the Diep River train station.
“I did not change the tyres of my car, my lady,” he said.
Galloway asked where the other tyres had then come from.
“I told you, I don’t know those tyres. I don’t know if they are mine. I assume they are not. If they don’t match my car.”
Galloway asked: “Even though you admit those are photos of your car?”
“Some of them,” he replied.
She said one theory was that the tyres were changed because Packham was scared police might link him to the crime scene, and that he had also heard in the news that witnesses had seen someone running away from the scene.
“I was at my sister’s home in Tokai until 21:20 on the night of the 22nd, so there is absolutely no doubt that I was not present at Diep River railway station when these alleged activities took place… as the cellphone records will prove,” he replied.
“I am confused about the tyre pictures not matching, but I would like to state for the record that I did not change the tyres on my motor car.”
He said any confusion about this rested with the police and its “internal problems”.
Packham has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife and a charge of obstruction of justice.
The trial continues.
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