South Africa

Packham trial leaves family divided

Packham trial leaves family divided

There will be a trail of family devastation whether Rob Packham, accused of killing his wife Gill last year, is found guilty or not on Monday.

That heartbreaking reality is driven home by a poignant Facebook post by two of Gill’s sisters on their Justice4Gill page this week in anticipation of judgment on Thursday.

It was postponed until Monday.

“No matter what the court decides, there are no winners, only losers,” wrote Sue and Helen after acknowledging the support they received “on this painful journey over the past 15 months”.

“Gill’s sisters, daughters, nieces, nephews, friends, colleagues and more, have all lost. Her sisters have been denied the years with a sister who was the connector, being the middle sibling of our family no matter what one believes happened back on February 21 or 22, last year, those beliefs don’t change the outcome or that we all lost a precious person in our lives.”

Gill’s two older sisters, Ros and Virginia, live in Europe, and Sue lives in Joburg and Helen runs the Facebook page from the US.

The toll and loss the sisters’ post speaks of has been profound, say family sources who claim the Facebook page has driven an emotional wedge between aunts and nieces.

Family and friends speak openly about how Helen and Sue’s depiction of Gill as an abused woman led to a request by Gill’s daughters Kerry, 28, and Nicola, 26, to shut down Justice4Gill soon after it was launched in March last year.

The daughters claimed the page hurt them as it prejudged their father’s guilt at a time when they were grappling with the tragic loss of their mother. Both staunchly supported their father in all his court appearances, with Kerry flying regularly from the UK where she teaches.

Although Gill’s eldest sisters distanced themselves from the page and its stance in an attempt to support their nieces, Helen and Sue felt their brother-in-law was driving resistance to the page. So they dug their heels in and persisted with it.

“We want to ensure that Gill’s untimely, brutal death is not in vain and ultimately that justice is served,” posted Helen in April last year.

“We would like to use this page as a platform to continue to build and maintain awareness of violence against women, especially by their partners. We are engaging in dialogue with local organisations who support women and solutions to end violence against women.”

Their stand estranged them from Nicola and Kerry who barely acknowledged them on the days they attended their father’s trial even though they sat directly behind them in the gallery.

Helen and Sue angered their nieces by wearing Justice4Gill T-shirts to court. Hostilities even boiled over in court in March during an adjournment when the public gallery witnessed Nicola angrily rounding on Sue seemingly for something that she had said.

Tragically, the family feud deepened when Kerry did not invite her aunts to her December wedding.

And the Packhams also excluded the sisters from a memorial service where Gill’s ashes were spread at a location not disclosed to them when they were in Cape Town for the trial.

Judgment against Packham, 58, was due to be handed down on Thursday but was postponed to give Judge Elize Steyn more time to complete her findings. Packham could face more than 20 years in jail if Judge Steyn reaches the same conclusions as prosecutor Susan Galloway who closed her arguments emphatically.

“It is submitted that the totality of the evidence before court overwhelmingly points to the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” she said. “His version is clearly fabricated and should be rejected as false.”

Weekend Argus