Neighbourhood watch volunteer saw Rob Packham driving wife’s car, court hears

Murder accused Rob Packham, left, in the Western Cape High Court, 11 March 2019. Picture: Catherine Rice / African News Agency (ANA)

Murder accused Rob Packham, left, in the Western Cape High Court, 11 March 2019. Picture: Catherine Rice / African News Agency (ANA)

The licence plates on both the front and the back of the car were apparently missing.

A Neighbourhood Watch volunteer has told the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday that he saw Rob Packham driving his wife’s car on the day of her disappearance on February 22, 2018.

Paul Gray, 76, told the court on day three of Packham’s trial that shortly after leaving his home to start a patrol, he noticed a stationary BMW sedan without number plates.

He said he found it strange that the licence plates on both the front and the back of the car were missing and radioed the control room as he thought it may be a stolen vehicle.

“I noticed a gentleman getting into the car on the driver’s side. It was a white man wearing shorts… I tried to indicate to him that there was a problem with the vehicle.”

He told the court that the man appeared to bang his fists repeatedly on the steering wheel.

“The driver was not looking directly at me. He looked like someone very anxious about something. He briefly looked at me and sped off.”

Gray said the actions seemed “out of the ordinary” and so he followed the car into Boundary Road and Kendall Road. After that, he lost sight of it.

Packham is accused of murder and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly killing his wife Gill Packham in February last year. He has pleaded not guilty.

On the day she went missing, she did not arrive for work at the usual time of 7.30am. Her body was later found in the boot of a burnt out BMW near the Diep River train station.

The state alleges that her husband used a blunt object to hit her on the head and, with the alleged intention of obstructing the course of justice, set her BMW on fire while her body was in it.

In April, Packham was identified by Gray in an identity parade. When he was asked to do so again by the court on Wednesday, he appeared confused and said a man, sitting in the public gallery, and the accused looked alike.

After some hesitation, he identified Packham and was then asked to identify the man, sitting in the public gallery, who looked similar.

Defence lawyer Craig Webster pointed out during cross-examination that the witness wears glasses and that the identity parade had been held several weeks after the incident.

“This happened on February 22 and the identity parade was held on April 13.”

Pointing to a front-page photograph of Packham in a local newspaper published in March he said there had been a lot of coverage of the murder and it was likely Gray had seen images of the accused before the identity parade.

Gray told the court he did not buy newspapers but conceded he may have seen a photograph of the accused before he identified him in a lineup.

Webster said his client had in fact been driving around looking for his wife in his car, a white Audi, and had been returning home at the time Gray said he had seen the BMW.

“He would have been in the vicinity in his own motor vehicle as he was returning from Kalk Bay and St James.”

Earlier, a licence plate recognition controller Tarryn Steed told the court that Gill Packham’s car had been flagged, and she had received WhatsApp messages and phone calls from concerned people.

“We had her registration plate and make and model of her vehicle. We also had a Pink Ladies flyer.”

When she reviewed the technology later that night, after being informed of a burning car at Diep River train station, she said cameras had captured a BMW without number plates coming out of Boundary Road and turning into Kendall Road.

“The occupant had [a] fair or light blue golf sweater on. It was a male. He was quite big in stature. He also had glasses on.”

Steed went back “through previous records and found a picture of her car with the plates on. I compared the two vehicles next to each other. One without and one with plates. There was a sticker. The paint was fading on the boot of both vehicles. All markings, disc placement, bumpers, they all matched.”

She said the woman driving the car with plates on was a smaller woman: “I immediately knew the driver was different.”

She said the person driving the BMW without plates had a much bigger build.

Earlier this week, Packham’s youngest daughter Nicola testified about her parents’ troubled marriage and her father’s infidelities.

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.

– African News Agency

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