'I honestly just wanted to die': Jason Rohde on finding his wife’s hanging body

2018-05-29 16:24
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WATCH LIVE: Jason Rohde's second day on the stand

2018-05-29 10:02

Murder-accused Jason Rohde continued testifying in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday. The former property mogul is on trial for allegedly killing his wife, Susan, at the Spier wine estate. Watch.WATCH

The discovery of Susan Rohde's body hanging from a bathroom door in 2016 "finished" her husband Jason Rohde and he did not want to live, he testified on Tuesday.

Rohde took the Western Cape High Court through his memory of calling handyman Desmond Daniels to unlock the door of the bathroom of his Spier Hotel suite, and how his wife was found hanging from a hook behind it.

Despite resuscitation efforts by himself, a colleague and later, paramedics, she was eventually declared dead.

Rohde recalled being taken to an ambulance and given oxygen.

"It felt like my world had come to an end. I couldn't breathe. I could hardly walk. I was just… finished," he told his lawyer Graham van der Spuy.

READ: 'Not in a million years did I believe Susan would commit suicide'

He said he sat in an adjacent hotel room shortly after that as relatives, hotel staff, colleagues and police milled around.

"I was sitting in this chair. I honestly just wanted to die."

He thought of his three daughters and believed his affair had caused their mother "to go to this length".

"And ultimately, there can only be one person to blame for that. And that's me."

Rohde, who has been charged with his wife's murder, was the first defence witness in his trial.

Although her death was thought to be a suicide, Rohde was later charged with her murder and accused of staging her suicide.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

'I thought she was still alive'

The court heard how he had wedged himself through a small gap between the door and wall to rush to his wife's hanging body.

He said she was crouched and her feet were on the ground.

With the door held up by a clerk in the courtroom, he demonstrated how he grabbed her body and held her up by his arms.

He screamed for Daniels to assist him.

"I just remember, I couldn't believe how heavy she was to pick up under my arms. It felt like a ton. It was very, very heavy."

He weighed around 84kg at the time, while his wife was around 52kg.

The knot was tight around her neck, he said, and Daniels wiggled the cord until it came off.

ALSO READ: Jason Rohde told his wife he was done with their marriage hours before she was found dead

Once she was on the floor, he immediately started with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, procedures he had only seen in movies.

"I thought she was still alive because there was a lot of spit coming out of her mouth. She was still warm. As warm as I was."

'Why do I need to a lawyer?'

Van der Spuy took Rohde through the three statements that Daniels made about the incident.

Rohde said Daniels had not opened the door but "unlocked it". He said it was not true that Daniels had gone into the bathroom first as he would never have allowed a stranger to see his wife.

He also disputed Daniels' testimony that she was naked, saying she was clothed in a Spier bathrobe.

After she was declared dead and he sat in a nearby hotel room, his father-in-law apparently turned Rohde's hands over and inspected them.

He also inspected the bathroom door mechanism, Rohde said.

"I didn't understand what he was doing. I didn't understand what it was about."

A detective asked him to give a statement and he wrote one and handed it over.

His father-in-law told him to get a lawyer.

"I said: 'Why do I need to a lawyer? I don't need a lawyer.'"

After waiting unsuccessfully for a district surgeon to arrive at Stellenbosch police station later that day to examine him, he said he flew back to Johannesburg to be with his family.

Rohde was later arrested at his family home in August 2016. He said his employment was terminated after the arrest.

The court heard how investigating officer, Sergeant Marlon Appollis arrived with officers and rang the doorbell early one morning.

Rohde said Appollis showed his badge and informed him he was under arrest. He apparently did not answer when Rohde's mom asked to see an arrest warrant.

After being shuttled from one police station to another, he and the police officers took a 14 hour drive to Cape Town.

The trial resumes on Wednesday.

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

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