Jason Rohde, the suspended South African head of property group Sotheby’s International Realty, was released on bail of R1.1 million on Tuesday, on a charge of murdering his wife, Susan, in their hotel room at the Spier Estate near Stellenbosch.
He appeared in the Stellenbosch District Court, before Magistrate Greg Jacobs, who warned him to appear in court again on September 23.
In terms of an agreement between state advocate Carien Theunissen and the defence team led by advocates Peter Mihalik and Ross McKernan, Rohde had to pay R100 000 cash immediately to secure his release from police custody, and furnish the court’s administration with a commercial bank guarantee for the remaining R1 million.
The bank guarantee has to be lodged with the administration by not later than Wednesday, September 14.
In terms of his bail conditions, he has to live with family in Melkbosstrand until his next court appearance, and may after that return to his Bryanston home to be with his three minor daughters.
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He has to submit to the supervision of a probation officer, or prison official, while living at Melkbosstrand, and report on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Melkbos Police Station.
He may not visit any international ports of entry or departure, without prior written approval of the investigating officer, or the prosecutor appointed to deal with the case.
As with his previous appearance last Thursday, the spacious courtroom was jam packed, mainly with media reporters. Cameramen and women were permitted to take photographs and video footage of Rohde entering the courtroom from the adjoining holding cells.
The prosecutor told the court that the investigation was almost completed, and confirmed that Rohde had surrendered his travel documents to the investigating officer.
The state still needed confirmation about Rohde’s financial status, she said.
She said the state was no longer opposing Rohde’s release on bail, nor was it necessary to release him into house arrest, she said.
Mihalik said the defence and state had also agreed that the alleged murder was not premeditated, which rendered the bail application a schedule 5 one, in which it was only necessary for the defence to satisfy the court that Rohde’s release from custody was in the interests of justice.
After the proceedings, defence attorney Tony Mostert said the defence team was concerned about the fairness and legality of the investigations, and police action.
Because of the team’s concerns, the team had initiated an independent expert investigation, to address unsupported allegations that the death was not suicide but murder.
He said Rohde’s arrest at his Bryanston home, and being taken to Stellenbosch, had been traumatic, and “he has inexcusably been put through the trauma of incarceration under dreadful circumstances”.
Mostert said the team was also concerned about unsupported evidence of the alleged murder, and speculation about it in the media, which was recklessly abused to create sensation.
He said conclusions were being drawn by some of the media, before any due process of the law had taken place.
The media speculation disregarded the constitutional right that no one is guilty until found to be so by a court of law.
Had certain sectors of the media investigated the veracity of information supplied by “so-called sources”, the more responsible story would have been to highlight that Rohde was respected in his community, “and that a loving father had been wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit”, Mostert said.
– African News Agency (ANA)