Crash involving pathologist's car halts Rohde murder trial

2017-11-30 19:40
Car sandwich consisting of the vehicles of two court witnesses and a Hawk.  #Rohde pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams's car is in the middle. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Car sandwich consisting of the vehicles of two court witnesses and a Hawk. #Rohde pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams's car is in the middle. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town – The trial of former property executive Jason Rohde, who stands accused of murdering his wife Susan, was adjourned on Thursday after the chief pathologist's car was bumped into by another vehicle while she was testifying in the Western Cape High Court.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe returned to the court shortly after the lunch adjournment to say she had been told in chambers of an "unfortunate incident" beyond the court's control, and would further adjourn proceedings until Monday.

Unaware of what was happening outside, Dr Deidre Abrahams had spent the morning duelling over academic literature on autopsy procedures versus the procudure carried out by her colleague Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan on Susan.

She had been accused by the defence of going against procedure stated in academic literature by not taking histological samples from Susan's neck after she died.

The defence believes these samples should have been taken and examined under a microscope, to help clear up whether the ligature mark on Susan's neck was sustained before or after she was found dead in a bathroom at Spier wine farm on July 24, 2016.

The results are likely to have a bearing on the defence's contention that Susan hanged herself in the bathroom of the suite the married couple were staying in that weekend.

'Samples not necessary' 

The defence's private pathology report by Dr Reggie Perumal concludes there is evidence of death by hanging.

The State alleges that Susan's death was a staged suicide after she was manually strangled and asphyxiated, and that its report proves that a ligature was put around her neck after she died.

In spite of all the medical literature placed in front of Abrahams by defence lawyer Advocate Graham van der Spuy, Abrahams would not budge and repeated that histology samples were not necessary or mandated in Susan's case.

She said they were in "no doubt" that Susan had been strangled based on their examination of her body.

She even read from a section of the Inquest Act to say that histology is at the doctor's discretion.

"I will come back to our case and repeat again, we looked at the skin, we looked at the tissue underneath. There was no indication that she was alive at the time that it (the ligature) was placed," said Abrahams.

'Clear case of manual strangulation'

She added that even Perumal did not conduct any histology on Susan's neck.

"We have no doubt that this ligature mark was of a post-mortem origin," said Abrahams.

"Our case is a clear case of manual strangulation."

She said that the articles the defence was putting in front of her showed the importance of a diligent internal and external exam, plus photography and full report – which the State did.

When court adjourned for lunch, investigating officer Marlon Appollis went up to Abrahams and started talking to her.

One of the defence lawyers complained that he was not allowed to do this, and it emerged that Appollis had been contacted to tell Abrahams that her car had been sandwiched between two others in an accident on Bree Street, near the court.

The judge was informed and she adjourned so Abrahams could deal with the situation.

No injuries

Her car had ended up squeezed between a Renault Clio and a bakkie.

The Clio driver, Ilze Holland, told News24 she had also been in court as a witness in a Housing Tribunal case. The bakkie that Abrahams' hood was pushed under belongs to the Hawks, according to a sign on the bakkie's dashboard.

An eyewitness said that a white minibus transporting tourists had lost control and crashed into the three cars. 

Nobody is believed to have been injured.

Rohde was the CEO of Geffen International Realty Franchises at the time of his wife's death.

Before she died, the couple had a blazing row over a woman he had had an affair with, who was also at the property conference he was attending at Spier.

Read more on:    jason rohde  |  susan rohde  |  cape town  |  courts  |  crime

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