Rohde lawyers worried about fairness of probe into wife's death

2016-08-30 17:46
Jason Rohde in court. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Jason Rohde in court. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Lawyers for murder accused Jason Rohde slammed the police and the media on Tuesday for the treatment Rohde has received after the death of his wife Susan, which they insist was a suicide.

As a first salvo after his arrest last Tuesday, Rohde's attorney, Tony Mostert, claimed that the police had arrested him without a warrant, and contaminated the crime scene at the upmarket Spier Wine Estate, where her body was found in a bathroom on July 24.

Before reading the statement at the top of the steps of the Stellenbosch Magistrate's Court, Mostert announced that they would take no more questions on the case from journalists unless they were sent in writing, because of the way the case had been handled by the media.

"The accusation that Mr Rohde may have been responsible for the death of his wife as represented by the South African police and reported on by certain sectors of the media is unsupported by the evidence in possession of his defence team.

"The criminal process prevents detailed disclosure of such evidence at this time, but we are able to say that the independent pathology report is consistent with suicide."

'Damning and hurtful, unfounded allegations'

Mostert said Rohde had been traumatised by the way he had been treated by the police and the media, and was disturbed that his defence lawyers could not get the State pathologist's report, even though it had already been reported on in the media.

This was after Die Burger reported that the pathologist's report indicated that Susan Rohde may have been kicked, and that her injuries showed that she may have defended herself.

Magistrate Gregory Jacobs earlier refused to hand over the State pathologist's report to Rohde's advocate, Pete Mihalik, who had requested it.

"While our client recognises the role of the police, and indeed the media, he finds it unconscionable that these very damning and hurtful, unfounded allegations are made, particularly insofar as the evidence of a suicide is overwhelming," Mostert said.

He continued: "Had certain sectors of the media investigated the veracity of the information supplied to them by so-called 'sources', the more responsible story would have been to highlight that Mr Rohde is a well-respected man in his community, a loving father who has been wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit, and that he and his family, particularly young daughters, are recklessly targeted by certain sectors of the media."

'Dreadful circumstances'

Mostert said the police had gone back on their word to not arrest him without first notifying his lawyers, following the discovery of her body at Spier Wine Estate in the Western Cape on July 24, and that since then "he has inexcusably been put through... trauma during the past week of incarceration under dreadful circumstances".

The millionaire couple from Bryanston, Johannesburg, had attended a Sotheby's conference at the estate. Jason Rohde is the CEO of Geffen International Realty Franchises.

He said that the next morning, he could not get the bathroom door open, and sought help. She was found dead inside the bathroom.

The defence team of the father of three commissioned a private report, and claimed that a bathroom window into their unit had been left open, which they believed could have led to the crime scene being contaminated.

Rohde sat very still behind his four defence lawyers, speaking only to confirm that he understood proceedings.

The court heard that the Department of Home Affairs had his passports, including a valid Australian passport and a valid US visa. He would not be allowed to apply for a new one and could not go near any exit ports. There had been no fishy financial transfers from his bank account either, according to a report from the SA Reserve Bank.

Bail granted

He was granted bail of R1.1m - R100 000 cash to be paid on Tuesday, and a guarantee for the other million in a few weeks' time.

When bail was granted, he shook hands with a few people on the way out.

Rohde is allowed to continue talking to his colleagues in the course of running the business, but is not allowed to discuss the merits of the case. The names of the witnesses may also not be revealed.

He has to report to the police at Melkbosstrand on the West Coast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

When he returns to court on September 23, the court could decide on whether he will be allowed to go to Gauteng to be with his daughter, who is preparing for matric. If that is granted, he will have to report to the Randburg police station.

Until then, he has to stay in the Western Cape.

Read more on:    jason ­rohde  |  susan rohde  |  cape town  |  court action  |  crime

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