Jason Rohde, the property mogul who stands accused of murdering his wife, continued to testify at the Western Cape High Court today. He continued to give his version of what happened on the night of his wife Susan’s death, and was also made to demonstrate how he found her.
Rohde claims to have been shocked on being charged with the murder. “It’s like your whole world is crashing in. It is like a dream you can’t wake up from. It is unbelievable.”
The accused gave detailed testimony about the time surrounding his wife’s death, including his assertion that Susan locked the bathroom door of their hotel room at Spier Wine Estate from the inside before committing suicide by hanging herself with a hair-iron cord.
When it was pointed out in court that the door could have been locked or unlocked using a teaspoon or a coin, Rohde told the court he could not have known this. Rohde was adamant that his wife locked the bathroom door from the inside, saying: “Susan locked that bathroom door‚ I did not lock that bathroom door from the outside.”
According to last year’s reports from the Western Cape High Court, it was revealed there that at the time of Susan Rohde’s death, the accused was overheard giving different accounts of the events that led to his wife’s death.
Mark Thompson, former priest at Resurrection Anglican Church in Bonteheuwel and Sotheby’s realtor franchisor, said Rohde’s statement to the police was a “complete contradiction” from what he had told Susan’s father.
According to Rohde, Susan discovered he had not been faithful in February 2016, when she found a Valentine’s Day card in his overnight bag on his return from a work trip to Cape Town.
Rohde testified that his spouse became obsessed after learning of his affair with a colleague. He said that resulted in constant marital conflict.
Rohde told the court his wife was devastated when she learned of the affair and wanted to know every detail. He claims to have stopped the affair in an attempt to save their marriage, but admits to rekindling it a few months later.
The accused claims that his infidelity caused her to hang herself. “She couldn’t believe what I had done to her,” he said. He also claimed he told her he would be divorcing her a short while before she allegedly committed suicide.
Rohde and his defence will need to prove that his wife committed suicide by hanging herself with a hair-iron cord, a difficult task since the state, which believes he murdered her, have as evidence a strong postmortem report that suggests she was strangled rather than hanged.
Severe bruising also seemed incompatible with the defence’s story of suicide. Also, the postmortem suggested she swallowed large quantities of blood in her last hours alive, caused by blunt force trauma on the right side of her chest.
In an effort to counter this evidence, Rohde’s defence team, led by senior advocate Graham van der Spuy, has meticulously combed through the postmortem report in search of any inconsistencies, and has attacked both state pathologists present at the postmortem examination.
Susan was found by Rohde in their Spier hotel bathroom with the cord loose around her neck and around a towel hook behind the bathroom door. The state is also accusing Rohde of obstructing the administration of justice.
The accused’s lawyer at the time of his wife’s death, Noorudien Hassan, is no longer alive. He was shot several times while in a car outside his home in Lansdowne in late 2016 in an incident that is believed by some to be linked to gangsterism in the Western Cape.