Susan Rohde could have died from hanging

Jason Rohde sits in the dock, accused of murdering his wife, Susan
Jason Rohde sits in the dock, accused of murdering his wife, Susan
Image: Esa Alexander

Property mogul Jason Rohde’s trial resumed on Monday with an expert defence witness arguing that his wife Susan could have died from hanging herself rather than being murdered.

Rohde’s trial resumed in the High Court with an expert witness‚ pathologist Dr Izak Loftus‚ telling the court that an absence of faeces behind the door‚ from which Susan was found partially hanging‚ could be testimony to the fact that she was still alive by the time Rohde raised the alarm.

Loftus also told the court that urine found at the scene indicated that Susan died from hanging and the excretion was a result of her muscles relaxing. Loftus is the second expert that Rohde has hired to bolster his claims that Susan had hung herself after arguments over his adultery.

Rohde is accused of killing Susan.

The couple had three daughters and had been married for more than 20 years at the time of her death.

He is the former CEO of Lew Geffen/Sotheby’s International Realty.

The state is convinced that he killed his wife at a company conference at Spier‚ near Stellenbosch‚ in July 2016. She was found dead with the cord of a hair iron around her neck behind a locked bathroom door.

Post-mortem examinations have taken centre stage in the trial. Based on its post-mortem report‚ the state alleges Rohde beat Susan up and dealt debilitating blows to her left chest‚ causing several rib fractures‚ before smothering her with a pillow and allegedly faking a suicidal hanging.

Susan insisted on attending the event as she was suspicious of Rohde after finding out five months earlier that he was having an affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alerskye.

Loftus said the rib fractures could have been caused by CPR. Rohde’s former colleague‚ Mark Thompson‚ testified in 2017 that he performed CPR on Susan when he arrived at the scene.

But prosecutor Louis van Niekerk said Loftus could not arrive at a definite conclusion since he did not attend the post-mortem and only relied on pictures – some of which were unclear.

“I understand that you can interpret it but that interpretation has limitation because you were not present at the autopsy‚” said Van Niekerk. “Some of the photographs are not clear.”

He also questioned the fact that Rohde did not hear any noise coming from the bathroom when Susan hung herself‚ according to his version. But Loftus said the noise would have depended on whether Susan had contact with the door she was found hanging from.

The trial continues.

- TimesLIVE