Gill Packham's cellphone on for only six minutes on day she disappeared

25 March 2019 - 14:18
Rob Packham during an earlier appearance in court. File photo.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux Rob Packham during an earlier appearance in court. File photo.

Slain Gill Packham's cellphone was switched on for only six minutes on the morning she disappeared in Cape Town.

Her husband, businessman Rob Packham, is on trial for murdering her.

Police cellphone specialist warrant officer Reece Harvey testified at the trial in the high court in Cape Town on Monday, explaining when the couple's mobile phones were turned on and off.

Harvey analysed data provided to the police by Vodacom to trace Packham's movements on February 22 2018, the day his wife disappeared.

He told the court that Packham had called his wife twice on the eve of her disappearance at 8.23pm and her phone was switched off at 9.05pm. Harvey said Gill's phone was switched on briefly the following morning at 7.03am and 7.09am - and that was the last activity detected on it. 

He said Packham's phone was switched off at 7.08am. At 7.34am, Gill’s car was seen leaving their Constantia home, according to video footage police obtained from the area.

Packham's other cellphone, described by his former mistress as a "burner phone", triggered a cellphone tower in the area where Gill’s charred remains were found in her car – near the Diep River railway station – at 8.46am.  

Harvey said Packham switched his regular cellphone on only at 9.53am that morning. It had been off for more than two hours.

At 9.55am, Packham received a call from the Wynberg high school where Gill worked as a secretary and another from his daughter a minute later. Records showed that Packham arrived at his former workplace, Twizzer, at 9.47am and left at 10.12am.

"From the information from the docket … the vehicle was parked at the station," said Harvey.

Packham’s counsel, Craig Webster, objected to Harvey’s testimony, arguing that it was based on "supposition" and "stuff in the docket" that had not been heard in court.

"What this witness is doing is taking cellphone data and reconstructing what he thinks happened," said Webster. "I object to that. My difficulty is that it creates an atmosphere where there is no justification for it."

The court was adjourned until 2pm to allow Harvey to simplify his evidence. The court ordered the media not to publish a document that Harvey had handed in earlier.

Packham allegedly killed Gill and put her body in the boot of her car and set it alight at the Diep River railway station. According to the state, he was tracked by licence plate recognition cameras that showed him driving Gill’s BMW. Cellphone towers showed that he drove around Constantia on the day of her disappearance.

Gill’s charred body was found in the boot of her car.

Packham has pleaded not guilty.

The trial continues.