Jason Rohde’s second forensic pathologist concurs Susan’s death was most likely by hanging

2018-06-25 16:59
Jason Rohde (Gallo Images)

Jason Rohde (Gallo Images)

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WATCH: Rohde pathologist on the stand

2018-06-21 10:15

Pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal was back on the stand on Thursday as his cross-examination continued in the murder trial of Jason Rohde. Sreamed live from the Western Cape High Court.WATCH

A second forensic pathologist hired by murder accused Jason Rohde added his support on Monday to the argument that Susan Rohde probably died as a result of hanging at the Spier hotel in 2016.

Dr Izak Loftus' testimony in the Western Cape High Court concurred with the opinion of defence pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal, who conducted a second autopsy on Susan.

Rohde has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife and staging her suicide on July 24, 2016.

Rohde's advocate Graham van der Spuy asked Loftus whether he believed Susan was alive when the hanging took place or whether a cord was applied after death to "simulate" suicide.

Loftus answered: "My lady… whether I believe the ligature was applied antemortem (before death) and that hanging caused the death of the deceased, I do believe there is for me pathological proof in that area [of the neck]."

He said he had no doubt and was "very happy" to state that Susan was alive at the time of injury to her neck.

Loftus added that he could not exclude other causes of death, but believed the most probable was death by hanging.

In concluding his testimony last week, Perumal said suicide by hanging was the most probable cause but he could not exclude other possibilities, such as manual strangulation.

WATCH: Rohde pathologist on the stand

Loftus also specialises in histopathology, which involves examining biological tissue under a microscope to diagnose and evaluate disease.

He said a histopathological examination of the tissue on Susan's neck, which was never done, would have been "of tremendous assistance" to the investigation.

"Immediately below the ligature mark, there is almost like a triangular area, almost 3mm wide. I am talking about subtle features [that would have been revealed through histopathology] to show it was antemortem (before death)."

He said injuries outside of the ligature mark could well have been caused by convulsions during hanging.

The reason why the mark looked so different on the front of the neck to the back of the neck, he said, could be attributed to the different thicknesses of skin tissue.

'No indication that her respiratory function was compromised'

It was difficult to comment on the direction of the mark because he felt the autopsy photos were not always taken in the correct anatomical position.

Loftus turned to the lungs and said he was very comfortable reporting on lung pathology.

"When I look at the deceased's lung, there is no indication that her respiratory function was compromised before death. I am talking about the ability of her lungs to function."

State pathologist, Dr Deidre Abrahams, had testified that she believed Susan's last moments were spent swallowing blood, battling to breathe and in pain after suffering severe blunt force trauma to her ribs.

Her colleague who did the first autopsy, Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan, believed that Susan's injuries were a sign of a physical altercation and that her chest or ribs were kicked, punched or kneed.

READ: Defence pathologist agrees Susan Rohde's neck injuries could have been caused by throttling, manual strangulation

Loftus testified on Monday that he believed that some of the injuries in the chest region were probably resuscitation-related.

Rohde and his colleague both testified that they performed CPR on Susan in the bathroom.

Loftus did not think there was any injury severe enough in the lungs to warrant the blood found in the stomach.

He criticised the manner in which Coetzee-Khan calculated the time of death and said he had not considered the temperature of the floor.

Coetzee-Khan initially gave a "mean time" of death of 05:40 with 95% accuracy, based on an ambient temperature of 17.4 degrees Celsius.

He later admitted he should not have used the mean time and should have instead stated the window of death was between 02:00 and 08:00.

Loftus explained there were so many factors to consider and many difficulties in calculating the time of death.

He gave an example: "Changing the ambient temperature from 17.4 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees, I moved the whole window of death 42min later and that is why there are so many variables."

Van der Spuy said he would continue leading Loftus after the court recess.

The trial is expected to resume on August 6.

Read more on:    jason rohde  |  courts

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