Rohde has some questions of his own for the prosecution
On day 2 of his cross-examination Jason Rohde repeatedly picked holes in questions posed by the prosecutor
Jason Rohde became combative on Thursday as he accused a pathologist and the police of jumping to the wrong conclusion that he murdered his wife, Susan.
On the second day of his cross-examination in the Cape Town High Court, Rohde repeatedly picked holes in questions posed by prosecutor Louis van Niekerk, and responded with his own questions.
He was particularly critical of the way the police conducted their initial investigation into the death of Susan at Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch and the fact that they immediately assumed she had been murdered, rather than committing suicide.
And he expressed his irritation that within an hour of arriving at Spier on Sunday July 24 2016, Susan’s father, Neville Holmes, was inspecting the bathroom door in the couple’s hotel room.
Rohde has denied murdering Susan after an argument about his affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alterskye, and defeating the ends of justice by attempting to make her death appear to be a suicide.
Susan was found with the cord of a hair iron around her neck in a locked bathroom, and Rohde said state pathologist Akmal Coetzee-Khan told police after inspecting the scene that she had been murdered.Rohde asked how Holmes had so quickly learnt of the version of events put forward by Spier maintenance worker Desmond Daniels, who opened the bathroom door and helped Rohde to free Susan’s body from the cord around her neck.
“The family were told I was culpable of Susan’s murder. That is why Neville, on the 24th of July, was checking bathroom doors. Why would he be doing that? Who gave him the information?” he said, going on to describe a fraught family meeting on Friday, July 29.
“When we had the meeting on the Friday with the whole family, they directly asked me: ‘Did I kill Susan?’ Neville was obviously talking to one of the policemen outside. Why would he be looking at the bathroom door? Why would he be inspecting the door mechanism? He was led to believe that I was responsible for Susan’s death,” said Rohde.
“How did my father-in-law know Mr Daniels’ story? How is that possible? Their emotions were completely fuelled by the fact that my father-in-law had indicated on the scene that I was culpable for Susan’s death.
“If that was my daughter, I would react exactly the same, but that’s not my point. My point is that [Holmes] arrived on the scene, he was basically told that I was culpable for Susan’s death and ... I can’t blame him.”Rohde also criticised police for cancelling a meeting with him at Spier on July 26, suggesting they were already so convinced he had murdered his wife that they were not interested in his version of events.
“I would have expected them to meet me at Spier, as they undertook, to take me through what transpired. Isn’t that how the justice system is meant to work?” he said.
“The fact that they cancelled the meeting with me on the 26th showed that they’d already made their mind up.”
Addressing Van Niekerk, who said the trial was Rohde’s opportunity to air his side of the story, the former property company boss said: “You’re saying that they will arrest somebody without hearing all the evidence and let the guy take his chances in court.”
Turning to Khan’s postmortem report, which said a bruise on Susan’s leg was symptomatic of battered-wife syndrome, Rohde said this could have been disproved with a phone call to his wife’s mother or sister.
“Had the police investigated by simply picking up the phone and speaking to my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, I wouldn’t have been labelled a wife-batterer,” he told Van Niekerk.
“If they hadn’t come forward with affidavits to describe those bruises, that label wouldn’t have stuck to me.”Rohde testified earlier this week that Susan sustained the bruising when she fell over while doing a handstand against the bedroom wall at their home in Bryanston, Johannesburg, and her leg landed on dumbbells.
Van Niekerk and Rohde also crossed swords over the conclusion of the couple’s fight hours before Susan’s death.
The court has heard that after arguing in their room over Rohde’s revived affair with Alterskye, who was attending the same company conference as the Rohdes at Spier, Rohde moved Susan out of the way by grabbing her neck and left the room.
Wearing only a dressing gown, Susan followed him to a colleague’s room, where Alterskye was sitting with friends. She opened the door and shouted to him, and he left to return to the couple’s room with Susan.
Rohde told Van Niekerk that he then undressed and went to sleep, but the prosecutor said this was unlikely to be true. “She’d now achieved her mission of getting you in the hotel room. Would she just to allow you to go to sleep?” he said.
Rohde replied: “I was absolutely exhausted, it was late in the morning, we’d had this major row for the last while. It wasn’t a case of her allowing me to go to sleep; I just went to sleep.
“We’d been carrying on this fight for a lengthy period of time. Maybe she was also exhausted. It had been an emotional evening. She’d caught me back with my mistress. It had to end at some time of the night.”
Earlier, Van Niekerk accused Rohde of lying about the position of his wife’s body in the bathroom of their hotel room, saying two postmortem examinations proved that “your version simply can’t be true”.
He added: “The state will argue that all of this as you’ve described during your evidence in chief is a lie. You’re making it up.”
Rohde did not respond or react.
• The case was adjourned until Monday, when Rohde’s cross-examination will continue.