When Keanan Thomas saw a white SUV parked near the Diep River train station the night Gill Packham’s car went up in flames, he waved to draw the driver’s attention to confirm if he had called the police.
But the Audi drove past him, Thomas testified on Thursday in the Western Cape High Court in the murder trial of Rob Packham, accused of murdering his wife, Gill, and setting her car on fire to obstruct the course of justice.
Thomas told Judge Elize Steyn the man who drove away that night looked “like someone who was angry”. The motorist was sitting in the dock, he confirmed, pointing at a bespectacled Packham.
Thomas and his friend, Lance Govender, both told the court that they had been playing video games when they heard his dogs barking the night of February 22, 2018, and went to go check what was causing the commotion.
Govender whose car was parked outside – said when they reached the stoep, they heard what sounded like someone running away at the back of the house.
Thomas testified that he had sent his dogs to the back and the two followed. They saw smoke emanating from just outside the yard.
First witnesses on scene
He told his mother to phone the fire brigade and the two friends went to have a closer look.
They saw a car was on fire, Govender said. They were the first two witnesses at the scene.
Thomas returned to the house to change from his flip-flops to his shoes, while Govender stayed near the burning car.
Thomas testified that on his way back to where the car was burning, he saw a white SUV nearby, through the trees.
He recalled that the driver’s side window was down and the man was in the driver’s seat. Thomas said he called “hello” and waved, wanting to check if the person had phoned the police.
According to Thomas, the car drove toward him, and he thought the man was going to tell him what was going on. He waited under a lamp post.
The driver – a clean-shaven man wearing a cap with an aggressive look on his face – kept driving, Thomas said. They were about a metre apart, with Thomas on the pavement.
He found this strange and took note of the number plate, remembering only that it contained CA and the numbers 7, 2 and 4.
Defence lawyer, advocate Craig Webster, SC, for Packham, pointed out that in his statement to the police, Thomas had described the person he saw as a coloured man aged between 30 and 35.
Thomas maintained he told police the driver was either coloured or white.
Webster noted that none of the photos used in the photo identification parade contained any coloured men between the ages of 30 and 35.
Two months after the murder, Thomas pointed out Packham as the man he had seen in the SUV that night.
Webster told him his client said he had been at his sister’s home for supper at the time he was supposedly seen near the train station and had been there until 21:00.
When asked if he could have made a mistake, a confident Thomas replied: “No.”
Webster pointed out there had been much media coverage about the incident, but Thomas countered that he didn’t read about it and was not on social media.
He said he only saw a photo of Gill shown to him by his mother on her cellphone.
A man, whom he assumed to be her husband, had his arm around her in the image.
“That was the person I was talking about, that I saw.”
The trial continues on Monday.