NATIONAL NEWS - Businessman Rob Packham has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Gill.
Judge Elize Steyn highlighted the seriousness of the offence, indicating that the court was obliged to sentence the accused to at least 15 years in jail unless “substantial and compelling circumstances” for a less severe sentence could be proven.
She added that in her view, there were several factors to justify a greater sentence.
These included that Packham showed disregard for the life of his wife and family, that his wife Gill’s murder was callous, brutal and shocking, that Packham was deceitful in his version of events and that he showed no remorse for the death of his wife.
On Monday, the state called for a life sentence for Packham, describing his actions as cold-blooded, callous, and selfish.
“The accused simply removed her from his life, as she in all probability no longer fitted in with what he wanted,” senior state prosecutor Susan Galloway told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Packham had been married to his wife for more than thirty years, but the couple had been having marital problems because of his infidelities, before her disappearance on February 22, last year. She did not arrive for work at the usual time of 7.30am and her body was later found in the boot of her burnt-out BMW near the Diep River train station.
Judge Elize Steyn rejected Packham’s version that she could have been the victim of a random hijacking and instead found that Packham was “a crafty deceiver”, agreeing with the state that his conduct was “incomprehensible” and had been indicative of guilt.
Delivering her judgment on May 20, she said that Packham had misled his family and his wife about terminating his relationship with his mistress and that his version had been dishonest and unreliable. Furthermore, there had been many instances where he was found to have lied or changed his version.
“The accused did not act in the manner of a distraught and later bereaved husband.”
Defence lawyer Craig Webster, while conceding the crime was serious, argued on Monday that Packham should not receive more than a twelve-year sentence. The 58-year-old was not a young man, was a first time offender, and had posed no threat to society in the past, Webster told the court.
“The accused has historically demonstrated himself to be a productive and useful member of society.”
He said the offence did not “speak of premeditation”, but rather had the “hallmarks of a spur of the moment incident”.
Furthermore, he argued there was no evidence to suggest the murder had been planned.
Webster said Packham’s eldest daughter, Kerry Meyer, 28, had testified that he was a caring husband and loving father, tended to avoid conflict, and acted as the “peacemaker” in the family. She had appealed to the court’s mercy and asked that her father not be jailed for life, so that he could one day be part of her children’s life.
Judge Steyn, however, pointed out that Packham’s daughter did not believe he was guilty. She questioned how caring he could have been if he killed his wife and deceived her for years.
She said he had not told the court he was remorseful, that he missed his wife, or that the events of what happened haunted him. She felt the prevalence of femicide in South Africa also needed to be addressed.
State prosecutor Susan Galloway argued that the court should impose a sentence of life as the “deceased was most viciously attacked with a blunt object” in her own home by her own husband.
The accused had not played “open cards with the court, and so there was no apparent motive”. He had undermined his wife’s attempts to resolve their marriage problems, by continuing his affair with Witness X (who cannot be named by order of the court).
Galloway said victim impact assessments of two of Gill’s sisters had described her as a kind, friendly, and caring person. Her daughter, Kerry, had also told the court that all of the family members had had to seek trauma counselling because of the effect of her loss.
The death of the deceased had happened when she was rebuilding her relationship with her sisters, Galloway said, and “all because the accused loved his life, but not his wife”.