Thu, 23 May 2019

The eyesight of a 76-year-old neighbourhood watch member was called into question after he failed to immediately identify murder accused Rob Packham as the man he had seen in the car of his slain wife, Gill, on the day of her disappearance.

Paul Gray - a pensioner and volunteer patroller - testified in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday that he had seen a green BMW parked on Lucius Way, Constantia, while driving on February 22 last year. He had pulled over to inspect it as it had no licence plates or disc and he thought it may have been stolen.

He radioed it in, Gray told Judge Elize Steyn, and while standing about 60m away making notes, he saw a man get into the driver's side.

He drove up to the green car in his own vehicle and had tried to indicate to the man that his plates might have been stolen, putting up his hand for the driver to stop.

Through the window, Gray said, he saw what looked like the driver banging his hands on the steering wheel.

"He looked like someone who was very anxious about something," he recalled.

The man - who Gray later identified as Packham in a photo ID parade - had glanced at him briefly before driving away.

Gray had followed suit as he suspected that something was amiss, but had lost him in traffic.

Accused identified with 'no hesitation'

When asked by prosecutor Susan Galloway to point out the man he had seen in Constantia that day, Gray walked through the court room before eventually placing his hand on the accused's shoulder.

He commented that another man, sitting in the gallery, looked similar.

Advocate Craig Webster, SC, for Packham, asked Gray about his eyesight. Gray wears spectacles for reading as well as to see over long distances. He also uses long-distance sunglasses, but couldn't recall if he had been wearing them when he saw the man.

WATCH: Rob Packham murder trial - Day 3

Gray conceded he didn't have a clear view of the man inside the car as his windows had been rolled up when he glanced at him that afternoon.

According to the paperwork of the photo identification parade two months later, it took Gray 22 minutes to identify Packham during proceedings.

He vehemently denied this, insisting it had taken seconds or a few minutes as there had been "no hesitation on my side".

Webster said his client denied being on Lucius Way that day, as he had been returning home at about 14:00 after driving his white Audi Q5 to St James and Kalk Bay looking for his wife. He then apparently left his Riesling Road house to look for her in Hout Bay and Chapman's Peak.

When asked if he could have been mistaken about seeing the accused that day, a confident-sounding Gray replied: "Negative."

'Body, body'

Earlier, licence plate recognition controller Tarryn Steed testified that Gill's BMW had not been picked up on the system's LPR camera but was later seen on overview footage without number plates.

This after she had gone to review recordings of cars driving near Diep River train station after the BMW had been found on fire that night.

She had been at the scene of the fire after being called by her control room.

Steed, who lived close by, testified that the dark-coloured BMW was burning and firefighters were in the process of extinguishing the blaze when the boot popped open.

A firefighter had shouted: "Body, body," and the entire scene was cordoned off.

She reviewed the footage that night and spotted the BMW 3 Series coming out of Boundary Road at 14:17.

The vehicle was being driven by a man, "big in stature", wearing eyewear and dressed in a light-coloured golf shirt, she said.

She found previous records of the car, then driven by a woman, and matched it to the BMW without the number plates through the stickers and faded paint.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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