Packham suspect back in court

Rob Packham will return to Wynberg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow, Friday March 9, after he made his first appearance on Monday March 5, on charges of defeating the ends of justice and the murder of his wife, Gill Packham (“Shock in wake of burnt body found in Diep River”, Bulletin March 1).

Ms Packham, 57, had been reported missing on Thursday February 22, and later that day, her remains, burnt beyond recognition, were found in the boot of a burnt out bottle green BMW close to Diep River railway station. She was identified by means of forensic DNA comparison to blood from the couple’s daughters.

The bail hearing was postponed to await a certificate from the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether he is charged with a Schedule 5 offence (murder) where the applicant must show on a balance of probabilities that his release on bail is in the interest of justice, or Schedule 6 (premeditated murder), which requires the applicant to show that his release is in the interest of justice and that exceptional circumstances exist that warrant his release.

State prosecutor, Brynmor Benjamin argued that it is a Schedule 6 offence, while the defence attorney Ben Mathewson is pushing for a Schedule 5 crime.

On Wednesday, Springfield Convent School headmistress Barbara Houghton told the Bulletin they had been inundated with requests by media to comment but have respected the family’s request for privacy. “This is in line with Springfield’s ethos of encompassing and nurturing and caring for current and past pupils whenever they need us and in whatever manner they need us,” she said.

Ms Packham is alleged to have last been seen by husband Rob as she left home for Springfield where she has worked as a secretarial assistant in the junior school since January.

In a newsletter to pupils and parents, Ms Houghton said, “Springfield mourns the tragic passing of Mrs Gill Packham in circumstances that have sent shockwaves throughout our school community. Gill was a mom who was involved in the lives of her daughters and wanted only the best for them. “Friends of both Kerry and Nicola were always welcomed into her home and regarded her as their ‘second mom’.

“Gill only commenced working at Springfield in January this year, but she was so happy in her new environment and told her colleagues that she was thoroughly enjoying her role. Our thoughts and prayers are with her two daughters whose lives have been radically changed by the death of their loving mom and friend.”

Kerry Anne, Nicola and other family members and friends filled the second row of Court 4 on Monday, armed with hefty novels and one of them knitting, as Rob Packham, 57, climbed the steps from the holding cells, turned to them and winked.

With closely cropped grey hair, dressed in a blue and white check shirt and blue chinos, and carrying a red jersey, this general manager of Twizza Cape Town, a cooldrink company established in 2003, attended Michealhouse and Ridge School before studying to become a chartered accountant.

Mr Benjamin read the evidence that led to Mr Packham’s arrest at his home in The Vines, Constantia on Thursday March 1. These included cellphone messages between Mr Packham and his wife as well as messages to a co-worker asking him to be an alibi, which aided police in the investigation and were picked up by masts in Diep River and Constantia.

There is also closed circuit television footage showing Mr Packham driving a bottle green BMW with no registration plates.

After Mr Packham’s arrest, the forensic unit searched their home and found blood in the garage, on the inside of the driver’s side door of Mr Packham’s car and in the couple’s en suite bathroom.

Mr Benjamin said it was a known fact that the couple had had marital problems and that Mr Packham had sent his wife a message stating that he was thinking of calling it a day with their marriage.

Mr Benjamin argued against Mr Packham being released on bail, saying he feared evidence may be lost if he were released.

Mr Mathewson said Mr Packham was not a flight risk and asked Magistrate Goolam Bawa (who also presided over most of the Franziska Blöchiger trial) if he could be released to attend Ms Packham’s memorial service held at Christ Church, Constantia (on Tuesday March 6).

Mr Packham wept as Mr Bawa denied the request as well as a request for him to remain at Diep River police holding cells rather than Pollsmoor Prison.

Mr Mathewson says the arrest was illegal and that Mr Packham was driving around to places where he might find his wife, going in and out of Diep River police station helping to look for his wife.

He also said that Mr Packham was not identified as the person driving his wife’s vehicle and that there was no evidence that the blood found at the house was that of Ms Packham, or that he had assaulted her.

Ms Packham’s cellphone has not been found nor has the weapon which caused blunt force trauma to the head, the cause of her death.

Mr Mathewson said there was no history of criminal abuse.