Murder-accused Rob Packham will have to wait until Thursday to hear whether he can still attend his daughter’s wedding, as he fights a second accusation of violating the conditions of being on bail while awaiting trial for the murder of his wife Gill.
This was after prosecutor Susan Galloway and his lawyer Ben Mathewson argued in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday over whether he should stay behind bars ahead of his trial, or to remain under house arrest.
He has been accused of trying to make contact with a woman he had an affair with for three years, via a friend, using text and a “snail mail” letter.
Waving a pile of about 20 examples of hate mail directed at Packham, Mathewson said his client had even been called “anti-Christ” in some, so it would not be inconceivable that somebody would send mail to Packham’s ex-girlfriend, and make it look like he did it, to keep him behind bars.
“The accused’s daughter is getting married on Saturday. There is nothing in this world that he would risk not walking her down the aisle. Clearly somebody else doesn’t want him there,” submitted Mathewson.
Packham was arrested for a second time last week for the alleged violation of his bail conditions. The first was in September for allegedly contacting State witnesses, including a woman with whom he had been having an extramarital affair.
His wife Gill disappeared on February 22 and her body was later found in the boot of her burnt out car at Diep River station in Cape Town.
For the first bail violation allegation, instead of withdrawing bail, Judge Nathan Erasmus ordered that his bail be increased from R50 000 to R75 000 and that all his electronic communication devices be confiscated.
Testifying on Wednesday during the second alleged bail conditions violation, investigating officer Sergeant Ivan Sonnenberg said he had received complaints from some of Packham’s Constantia neighbours that he seemed to be moving around as he pleased, instead of being under house arrest.
“I don’t know where he was running to, but he was running,” said Sonnenberg.
He said Packham would not always wait to get permission from him to leave home as required, but would leave messages to say he was going to one of the places he was allowed to go to. This was to report himself at a police station; to go to church, for medical care, a therapist, three hours’ shopping a week, and to consult his lawyer.
Sonnenberg said he had also been given a screenshot of an apparent text message in which a person thought to be Packham tries to get in contact with a woman he had an affair with for three years.
There was also an alleged attempt at sending a “snail mail” letter to this woman via her friend.
The text messages were apparently sent in a social media group for a BDSM erotic sex lifestyle movement that the woman and a friend belong to. They may not be named, by order of the court.
Sonnenberg said police raided Packham’s house after those complaints, but only found an Apple watch, and no cellphones.
Packham’s lawyer said his client’s electronic communication devices had been confiscated after the first brush with a bail violation charge. Also, since people in the sex group use only their first initial, it would not be possible to prove that it was Packham interacting in the group.
The court also heard that the woman he had been having an affair with, did not want anything to do with him anymore.
Matthewson added that the investigating officer had also not attempted to prove that the electronic device used to send the messages was in Packham’s hands.
There was also no fingerprint analysis, DNA sampling, or handwriting analysis done to prove that it was Packham who had sent the hard copy letter.
He got a concession from Sonnenberg that Sonnenberg had been on leave for three weeks and so had not checked his phone as frequently as usual, and so did not always get Packham’s calls to say he was going out, straight away.
Mathewson said that just because neighbours saw Packham leaving his home for the activities he was restricted to, did not mean he was breaking his bail conditions.
He said that being under house arrest does not mean a person is completely housebound.
He added that at one point Packham’s car had been at the mechanic, and so he could have been running or cycling to meet an appointment.
Judge Elizabeth Baartman took in all the information, and listened carefully as Galloway argued that Packham had violated his bail conditions.
Baartman said she would hand down judgment on Thursday at 14:00.
In the meantime, Packham would remain in police cells