Memories, opinions of Rohde’s colleague 'cannot be relied upon' - defence

2017-10-10 20:17
Jason Rohde (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Jason Rohde (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – The testimony of the man who tried to resuscitate the wife of Jason Rohde in 2016 cannot be relied upon because he failed to see what was in front of him and his memory had faded, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

Rohde's defence lawyer Pete Mihalik also felt little value could be placed on the testimony of the State’s first witness, Mark Thompson, because he was not an expert.

READ: Jason Rohde’s ‘mistress’ could testify for State

Thompson, an operations manager at Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty, had earlier testified about performing CPR on Susan Rohde in the bathroom of the couple’s hotel room at Spier Wine Farm, on July 24, 2016.

He shared several observations about the state of her body, the cord against the bathroom door and how he found her on the floor.

Nakedness

What stood out for him was her nakedness and the "massive bruise" on her one thigh.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe asked why this was striking.

Thompson, a former Anglican priest, explained, "It was disturbing for me that she was naked while I was doing CPR. Her breasts were clearly exposed. I was crying at the time and my tears were splashing on her naked breasts."

Mihalik found it strange that he had failed to notice the jewellery Susan was wearing, the definition of the line around her neck, and that her arms were tucked into a night gown. This was despite checking for her pulse.

Thompson said the intimacy and "indignity" of the occasion stood out for him.

These moments and details were what he most clearly recalled as a result of processing it through eight months of trauma counselling and in conversations with family and friends.

Lack of reaction

He had also testified that Rohde's lack of reaction and interaction with his wife surprised him.

"Did he not say, ‘What about my babies? She is the mother of my babies’?" Mihalik asked.

Thompson replied that he had said this in the ambulance afterwards, where he had held Rohde's hand.

It seemed to perplex him that Rohde had not thanked him for trying to save his wife’s life, and had never responded to his two Whatsapp messages offering support, in the wake of her death.

Mihalik countered that Rohde was "totally ostracised" by certain people after newspaper articles painted him as a killer.

Thompson said he sent the first message the same day Susan died and never ostracised Rohde.

"I just thought he would give a simple thank you. It would have been good."

The defence lawyer emphasised that this was a grieving man they were talking about.

"I am going to argue later that no reliance can be made on your observation in that most issues you should have seen, you didn’t see," concluded Mihalik.

Not an expert 

He said Thompson’s opinions had no value because he was not a psychologist, pathologist, doctor or another type of expert.

"Yet you saw fit to opine on these issues."

Thompson strongly disagreed.

"I am a human being who came to help a colleague. I noticed things, I said and felt things. The fact that I am not an expert in footprints doesn’t take away from the experience of being 53 years and a bit at the time."

Mihalik also put it to him that over time, his memory had faded to such an extent that he could not recall any detail.

Again, Thompson strongly disagreed.

He replied that he gave a statement to police just a few days after Susan died, describing what he had noticed, said and heard during the extremely stressful time.

He gave a second statement with more detail when the prosecutor came to Johannesburg to consult this year.

Thompson breathed a sigh of relief and smiled as he was excused from the stand.

The trial was postponed until Wednesday.

Read more on:    jason rohde  |  courts

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