Businessman Rob Packham has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Gill in the The Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Judge Elize Steyn, deviating from the minimum sentence of 15 years, sentenced the 58-year-old Constantia businessman to twenty years for murder and four years, two of which were suspended, for defeating the ends of justice.
Packham had been married to his wife for almost thirty one years, but the couple had been having marital problems because of his infidelities, before her disappearance on February 22, last year. She did not arrive for work at the usual time of 7.30am and her body was later found in the boot of her burnt-out BMW near the Diep River train station.
Steyn rejected Packham’s version that she could have been the victim of a random hijacking and instead found that Packham was “a crafty deceiver”, agreeing with the State that his conduct was “incomprehensible” and had been indicative of guilt.
Steyn highlighted the seriousness of the offence, indicating that the court was obliged to sentence the accused to at least 15 years in jail unless “substantial and compelling circumstances” for a less severe sentence could be proven.She added that in her view, there were several factors to justify a greater sentence.
These included that Packham showed disregard for the life of his wife and family, that his wife Gill’s murder was callous, brutal and shocking, that Packham was deceitful in his version of events and that he showed no remorse for the death of his wife.Steyn said Packham had driven around in her car with the body in the boot after murdering her in her own home. He had removed the licence plates and later set it alight, the “ultimate morally reprehensible act”.
He had not once mentioned that he missed his wife or felt sympathy for his children’s loss, and instead displayed a “dismissive attitude” in court that lacked empathy.Judge Steyn said Packham had not divulged a motive, but it appeared he killed his wife out of “anger and frustration”.
His eldest daughter, Kerry Meyer, had told the court, when she testified in mitigation of sentence, that her father was a loving and kind man who had never shown any violence towards his family. She asked the court not to “put him away forever”.
Meyer described her mother as a wonderful, warm and fun person with a big heart whose death had left all the members of her family traumatised. Her death had left a hole in the lives of those close to her, Judge Steyn said, but “the accused does not seem to understand or care about the trauma this has caused his family”.
Describing Packham as “disloyal and deceitful” as well as “self-indulgent and hypocritical”, she said there was little favourable about Packham’s personality. He had shown no remorse, did not formally report her as missing, did not want counselling, did not wish to consult with the investigating officer when summoned and his attitude had been “self-centred, deceitful and cowardly throughout”. He had bludgeoned her twice and she must have suffered “extreme shock and horror”. The degree of violence was excessive, showing “horrifying aggression”.
Despite being devastated by Packham’s infidelity, the deceased had tried to restore the marriage while being justifiably suspicious: “No doubt her guard would have been down in her own home.”
Judge Steyn emphasised the crucial role courts must play in the fight against femicide. In South Africa it had reached epidemic proportions: “The South African femicide rate is five times higher than the global average.”
Packham had inflicted more than one blow on his middle aged wife, who was of “petite stature”. He had broken the strongest bones in her skull, and “attacked her in the sanctity of her home”.
Judge Steyn also referred to the case of former property mogul Jason Rohde, who was also convicted of murdering his wife, and defeating the ends of justice by staging the crime scene to make it look like a suicide.
Rohde was sentenced to an effective twenty years behind bars in February.
(Background reporting, ANA)