'Remorseless' wife killer Rob Packham can mull it over for the next 22 years

12 June 2019 - 12:24 By SUMIN WOO
Rob Packham during his sentencing on Wednesday.
Rob Packham during his sentencing on Wednesday.
Image: Esa Alexander

Wife murderer Rob Packham was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime by judge Elizabeth Steyn at the Cape Town high court on Wednesday.

An additional sentence for defeating the ends of justice means his sentence is effectively 22 years.

The 58-year-old Constantia businessman looked stressed and impatient in the dock as Steyn read her sentencing decision, and occasionally gave a faint shake of his head.

He was convicted last month of killing his wife of 30 years, Gill, in February 2018. Her body was found in the boot of her burning car at Diep River railway station.  

“The accused methodically, brazenly and clinically went about in an attempt to obliterate any proof of his cowardly deed,” said the judge in handing down sentence.

“The actions of the accused prevented his family, including his daughters, from getting closure.”

Some members of his family, seated at the back of the gallery, broke down in tears at the sentence, though Packham’s sister and daughter remained composed. The pair, who have consistently attended court proceedings, swiftly left without exchanging words or glances with Packham.

Judge Steyn described Packham’s actions - including continuing an extramarital affair, driving around with his wife’s body in her car and showing no remorse - as “ample reasons for the court to increase the minimum sentence," which is 15 years.

“While pretending to be working to improve his marriage, the accused continued to pursue his paramour,” she said, adding that Packham’s attempts to cover up his crime robbed Gill of her dignity, even in death.

Packham was sentenced to four years for defeating the ends of justice by attempting to cover up the murder. Two years of the shorter sentence will run concurrently with the murder sentence, meaning Packham faces 22 years behind bars.

Packham’s lack of emotion and extramarital affair have been at the forefront of court proceedings since he was arrested in March 2018.

"No remorse has been demonstrated by the accused, even during sentencing, by electing not to testify," said prosecutor Susan Galloway, as she argued for a life sentence.

"The accused found himself in circumstances of his own creation … by his continued infidelity."

Though he and Gill were in counselling, Packham kept in touch with his ex-mistress, even on the morning when he killed Gill by repeatedly hitting her over the head.  

The state said Packham murdered his wife, a secretary at Springfield Convent School in Wynberg, once he decided she "no longer fit" with what he wanted.

"He’s not to be sentenced for having an affair," defence advocate Craig Webster said on Monday, pushing for a sentence of 12 years.

One of the Packhams' two daughters, Kerry, asked Steyn to be lenient in her sentencing.

"He is a wonderful man and was a wonderful father," she said. "He was always there for us and showed that he cared. I ask that you don't put him away forever."

The sentence imposed by Steyn is above the prescribed 15-year minimum for a first-time killer.

“We are satisfied with the sentence as it is a balanced sentence between the horrific crime that was committed and the rights of the victim,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila.

Packham’s defence indicated that they were likely to appeal.