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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Wednesday 21 August 2019

D-Day in Jason Rohde murder trial

Jason Rohde, accused of murdering his wife, will hear his fate in the Western Cape High Court at 10am today. Yesterday afternoon, according to TimesLIVE, Advocate Graham van der Spuy painted a picture of a shattered man who was not capable of violence. He pointed to testimonies that had unfolded in the lengthy trial in which it was stated: ‘The accused most certainly does not have the profile of somebody who resorts to violence to resolve a conflict. He is non-confrontational.’ As for his wife Susan, whose death at the luxury Spier Wine Estate sent shock waves across the country in July 2016, Van der Spuy said there are three theories which explained what happened – all of which include Susan taking her own life. ‘My submission is that the deceased died at her own hand and that the evidence overwhelmingly supports that,’ he said, adding she may have ‘consciously committed suicide’ when she went into the bathroom and possibly thought to herself, ‘this is it, I can’t take it anymore; I have lost the battle’. Another explanation he gave was that she wished to ‘simulate a suicide as a cry for help’ but that it went ‘miserably wrong’. ‘It is amazing how quickly unconsciousness occurs after a ligature is applied to the neck – it happens within seconds,’ he said. His third theory was that Susan Rohde was engaged in an experiment of sorts – an attempt to see what it took to commit suicide – but didn’t plan on dying that day. ‘It could have been a simulated experiment but before she knew it, the dye was cast,’ he said. He argued the state’s allegation that Rohde murdered his wife in the bedroom and then transported her to the bathroom to create a fake suicide was not possible when no DNA was found to corroborate that, and no carpet fibres were found on her body.

Van der Spuy also attempted to dent the credibility of state pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan, accusing him of making deliberate errors, jumping to conclusions that warped his analysis and, in effect, obstructing justice. Van der Spuy claimed that 'through a cacophony of incorrect assumptions', Coetzee-Khan had declared right at the outset that 'Susan was assaulted and murdered, her husband was a suspect, and foul play had occurred'. Coetzee-Khan was accused of interfering in processes beyond his ambit when he said at the crime scene investigation that Rohde should immediately be examined for injuries which would form part of the record, and that he should have his passport confiscated lest he become a flight risk, notes TimesLIVE. 'What we have is a shockingly poor incident scene inspection. We have fundamentally incorrect conclusions. His evidence and report in that regard were not worth the paper they were written on. It was forensic nonsense.' Van der Spuy also slammed the autopsy report, saying it 'was incompetently performed' and 'utterly flawed'. He questioned why the state pathologist had claimed to take his own notes during the autopsy. He also asked why it took 'nine months to squeeze the autopsy report out of the state'. 'One can't but think that something fishy is going on,' he said. He questioned why no X-rays were performed on Susan Rohde's body, and why no histology was included in the report.