WhatsApp messages key to high-profile murder trial
Publish date: 08 November 2017
Issue Number: 1708
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
‘You are going to die today and so is she!!!!!!!!’ eLaw & Management notes that this was the chilling WhatsApp message that murder accused Jason Rohde received from his wife just hours before she died. Once again, cell phone evidence is playing a key role in providing the glue for detectives and lawyers to establish timelines and motives for high-profile crimes. Rohde stands accused of killing the mother of his three daughters in their hotel suite in Stellenbosch last year. Details of the chilling exchanges between the couple and his lover Jolene Alterskye emerged in the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Monday. Cell phone expert Warrant Officer Anna-Marie van Niekerk testified about the details of certain messages as deemed important to the case by the investigating officer Sergeant Marlon Appolis. A TimesLIVE report notes that many of the messages were sent within the last 24 hours of Susan's life. Van Niekerk also testified that Rohde and Alterskye called each other a total of more than 2 266 times between February and July 2016. Defence advocate Pete Mihalik stated that during the same period Rohde and Susan called each other a total of 1 703 times. A report on the IoL site notes that it was initially believed Susan had committed suicide hanging by herself on the bathroom door at the Spier Wine Estate where she and her husband were attending a staff function.
Psychologist Jane Newcombe yesterday told the court that she had been treating Susan in therapy in 2016. A TimesLIVE report notes that Newcombe testified that Rohde became irritated with his wife when she found out that he was having an affair. During therapy sessions in June 2016‚ Susan told Newcombe that Rohde had sent a message to Jolene Alterskye to end their extramarital affair‚ which he claimed started in June 2015. In the message‚ Rohde allegedly told Alterskye that he 'loved his wife and wanted to work on his marriage'.
A report on the News24 site notes that Susan’s body was found hanging from a bathroom door hook at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on 24 July, 2016. The couple had attended a Sotheby's International Realty SA annual conference. At the time, Rohde was the CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in SA. At first, Susan's death was regarded as a suicide. However, the investigation changed to murder and Rohde was arrested. The trial continues today (Wednesday).
A half a world away, a football agent has been jailed based on his WhatsApp communications leading up to a fatal crash. Peter Morrison lost control of his Mercedes ML 4x4 at high speed in Cumbria in the UK in February last year. The Sun reports that the accident killed highways traffic officer Adam Gibband and left his colleague Paul Holroyd paralysed. The jury at the Carlisle Crown Court unanimously found Morrison guilty of causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving. This after it was established that he had sent and received 25 WhatsApp messages from three footballers shortly before the collision. His last text message was sent to Zach Clough just 96 seconds before the fatal crash.