Packham's wife's skull shattered in two places, expert tells court

18 March 2019 - 17:20 By PHILANI NOMBEMBE
Rob Packham appears in the Western Cape High Court on March 18 2019 for the murder of his wife Gill Packham.
Rob Packham appears in the Western Cape High Court on March 18 2019 for the murder of his wife Gill Packham.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

An expert has revealed that Rob Packham’s wife, Gill, died from blunt trauma which shattered her skull in two places.

Dr Louise Friedling, a biological anthropologist, testified in Packham's murder trial in the high court in Cape Town on Monday. Friedling examined Gill's remains to determine the amount of damage caused by fire, and what caused her death.

She said Gill’s skull was fractured on the right side before she died. Friedling said she also sustained a fracture on the left side after she had died.

"If it was an accident, it would not have caused such harm," said Friedling. "Unless the person had fallen from a great height."

Friedling conceded under cross-examination by Packham’s counsel, Craig Webster, that she "can’t exclude heat fractures" from the fire.

Packham allegedly killed Gill and put her body in the boot of her car before setting the vehicle alight at the Diep River railway station in February last year. According to the state, Packham was bust by licence recognition cameras that tracked him driving Gill’s BMW, while cell phone 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. Packham has pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution also called Packham’s sister, Judith Markwell, to the witness stand to bolster its case.

Prosecutor Susan Galloway asked Markwell about events of February 22 last year – the day Gill disappeared – and how she had joined in the search for her sister-in-law.

Markwell said she had received a call from Packham’s daughter asking if she knew where her parents were. She said, initially, she thought they had attended their marriage counselling sessions.

Packham called her afterwards and said Gill had not arrived at a Wynberg high school where she worked as a secretary. She said she had called hospitals to check if there had been any accidents.

Markwell said she had invited Packham to her home in Tokai for supper and he had arrived at 7pm and stayed until around 9pm.

She said a friend of Gill’s had arrived later and they had gone to pick up Packham from his Constantia home after they had heard that there was a car on fire at the Diep River railway station. She said they drove to the Diep River police station and then proceeded to the railway station, but could not get close because police had taken over the scene.

Packham was later called in for counselling.

Galloway asked Markwell if she was aware of the Packhams’ marital problems.

"I know they were going for counselling," said Markwell. "They were back together and very happy. The last time I spoke to her ... she said things were good."

The trial continues.