I saw Rob Packham speeding away from wife's blazing car, says witness

Rob Packham in the dock at the Cape Town High Court, where he is on trial for the murder of his wife, Gill, in February 2018.
Rob Packham in the dock at the Cape Town High Court, where he is on trial for the murder of his wife, Gill, in February 2018.
Image: Esa Alexander

A witness has placed Rob Packham at the scene where his wife's charred remains were found in the boot of her burning car.

Packham, 57, is on trial in the high court in Cape Town for his wife Gill's murder.

He has also been charged with defeating the ends of justice.

Keanan Thomas, from Diep River, took the witness stand on Thursday and identified Packham as the man he saw driving away from the burning car on the evening of February 22 last year, the day Gill disappeared.

Thomas also identified Packham from a collage of pictures he was shown in an identity parade at Hout Bay police station in April last year.

Rob Packham with his wife Gill, whom he is accused of murdering.
Rob Packham with his wife Gill, whom he is accused of murdering.
Image: Supplied

Thomas told the court he was at home playing video games with his friend, Lance Govender, that evening when they heard dogs barking.

When they went outside they saw smoke in the distance and went to look.

At first he thought the veld was burning and asked his mother to call the fire service, then he realised a car was on fire.

Thomas said as he approached the car he saw a white SUV coming towards him and greeted the driver, whose window was open.

But the man drove off, appearing aggressive and angry.

"I thought he was there before us," Thomas said.

"I went to the guy, I thought he would tell me what is going on. As he drove past me, he looked at me (and) I looked at him. Lance said, 'that's weird'."

Thomas went on to describe the man.

"That person in the car had a round face. I think he was light in complexion, a mix between white and coloured."

Asked if the man was in court, Thomas pointed to Packham.

"He has got glasses on now, he didn’t have glasses then," he said.

Packham’s counsel, Craig Webster, took issue with the fact that Thomas identified Packham as the suspect when the accused was 57 at the time of the identity parade and the witness was shown pictures only of middle-aged white men.

By the time Thomas was called to the identity parade, Packham’s image had been widely published, said Webster.

Rob Packham denies it was him driving away from his wife's burning car in a white SUV.
Rob Packham denies it was him driving away from his wife's burning car in a white SUV.
Image: Esa Alexander

"The accused will deny that it was him that you saw," said Webster. "He said he arrived at his sister’s home for supper and that he was there until after 9(pm). It is unfortunate the police didn't present you with pictures of coloured males between the ages of 30 and 35."

But Thomas said he was not on social media and did not read newspapers. He said Packham’s image fitted the description of the man he saw.

Packham allegedly killed Gill by hitting her over the head and then putting her body in the boot of her car and setting it alight at Diep River railway station.

According to the state, he was filmed by licence-plate recognition cameras that showed him driving Gill’s BMW, while cellphone towers showed that he drove around Constantia on the day of her disappearance.

Gill's charred body was found in the boot of the car after firefighters extinguished the flames. 

The trial will resume on Monday.


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