Rob Packham on day his slain wife went missing: 'I was emotional and scared for her'
Taking the stand in his defence on Monday, murder accused Rob Packham described the day his wife Gill went missing and how all his efforts to find her resulted in dead ends.
Her charred remains would later be found on February 22, 2018, in the boot of her burnt out car at the Diep River train station in Cape Town.
Dressed in a dark blue suit with a navy tie and pinstripe shirt, Packham rested both hands on the dock in the Western Cape High Court, his voice wavering slightly at times as he gave his testimony.
"The day got worse and worse and got progressively more difficult for me. I was concerned that she was not contactable on her cellphone. That was very unusual," he told Judge Elize Steyn.
"As the day progressed, I became more and more concerned. I was emotional. I was scared for her."
He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife and a charge of obstruction of justice.
The court heard that his daughter had known about his affair for some time and repeatedly encouraged him to break it off and tell his wife. He eventually told her in October 2017, but not before booking their first appointment with a marriage counsellor.
They had joint sessions and also saw their own counsellors.
"I think, in the four months or so, we had made significant progress in the counselling," he said, adding that they had spoken about renewing their vows.
They had a counselling session the day before her death and ended up arguing at home that evening.
"It actually had nothing to do with the counselling sessions we had attended. I was due to go to Johannesburg the next day for a meeting," he said.
He said his wife didn't think he should go, and had trust issues with him being away from her or from home.
"I explained to her that I didn’t want work and our private matter to interfere and I felt it was important for me to go. She felt otherwise and she became angry."
He said the matter was not "exactly resolved" and they had "agreed to disagree".
The next day, he got up early for a run and returned to get ready for work.
His wife had left around 07:00, but he was not ready to leave at the same time.
Packham said his wife had again said that she wasn't happy for him to go on his work trip.
"She threatened to phone the CEO of the company to suggest to him that I shouldn’t go, and I said to her not to be silly. At that point she went out the garage and left."
He left around 07:30 in his white Audi Q5, but did not go straight to his workplace Twizza in Bellville.
He explained that he had been looking for a new car for his wife and had driven around to various dealerships in surrounding areas to look at prices.
Defence lawyer advocate Craig Webster asked about the status of his main (work) phone and secret phone at this time.
Packham replied that he had turned his work phone off because Gill was "in the habit" of tracking him or his movements and he didn't want to spoil the surprise of her new car.
He kept his private phone on. When he got to work, he put his main phone on again, only to find numerous calls from his daughter, his sister and his wife's workplace.
This was the moment he found out his wife had not pitched up at the school where she worked.
He was "perplexed" that she had not arrived and thought there might be an issue with her car. He left his workplace at 10:13 and went directly to her school.
Once there, he spoke briefly with a few staff.
"It is fair to say, I was confused and concerned. It was most unlike Gill for her not to be where she was supposed to be... It was not like her not to let me know if there was an issue of some sort or a problem."
Packham drove home, but she wasn't there. He then drove the different routes she used to take, in the hopes he would find her.
She was not at the two flats they rented out in Claremont, nor was she at some of her favourite spots around Cape Town.
"In conversation with my daughters during the course of the morning, we had thought it was possible she had gone to some of her favourite places. She had possibly just decided to take a day out for herself."
He phoned her close friends, but they knew nothing. He then thought she might have gone to his workplace.
"I thought I needed to let somebody at the plant know that she might come and, if she did, to please give a message from me."
He told his colleague to "let her know I had been there since first thing in the morning, but I had gone to search for her".
The court heard how he and relatives had contacted various hospitals to check if there had been car accidents or if there was anyone in the emergency unit who was unaccounted for.
He later went to the Wynberg police station to report her missing and said a woman behind the counter had told him he had to wait 24 hours and then come back the next day to file the report.
Not satisfied, he demanded to speak to someone else. A policeman then said he should have gone to Diep River, but that he would send the information through anyway.
'I was at my sister's house at the time'
The policeman asked if his wife had had an affair or if there were marital problems. Packham told him they did have some.
"I didn’t feel it was appropriate to divulge that kind of private information, so I steered it away from that topic. I was more interested in doing what needed to be done to report Gill as a missing person."
His sister invited him for dinner that evening and, after spending two hours there, he drove to a hospital again to check for Gill, before heading home.
A burnt-out green BMW, with a body inside, was later found alight at Diep River train station.
He said he was not the person that a witness had seen driving away from the train station in a white SUV.
"I was at my sister's house at the time," he told Webster.
He also denied that he was driving his wife's green BMW earlier in the day, according to another witness.
The trial continues.
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