AS IT HAPPENED: #Rohde defence continues to discredit State pathologists' evidence pointing to manual strangulation

2017-11-28 10:06

The cross examination of chief pathologist Deidre Abrahams has intensified in the Western Cape High Court as defence Advocate Graham Van Der Spuy proposed tough questions about Susan Rohde's autopsy.

Deidre Abrahams

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Last Updated at 23:57
28 Nov 14:27

28 Nov 14:18
Abrahams said Coetzee-Khan did full autopsy on Susan Rohde in line with standard operating procedures before he concluded she died of "clear manual strangulation". There was not even evidence of a knot on her body.

28 Nov 14:14

28 Nov 14:05
Abrahams says that when she is answering on autopsy of Susan Rohde, his defence advocate VD Spuy becomes aggressive. He says he is not being aggresive, just wants answers.

28 Nov 14:04

28 Nov 13:57


Van der Spuy previously accused Coetzee-Khan of not taking samples that could have helped exonerate Jason Rohde.

The defence wanted to know why the State had not done a number of procedures, including taking certain tissue samples or a sample of the blood found in her stomach.

Another procedure referred to was where water was used to check for bubbles coming out of the chest cavity.

28 Nov 13:55
Rohde defence moves on now to why State did not take samples of Susan's stomach, bowel, or any X-rays. Abrahams said no need because manual strangulation finding clear. Private pathologist did not test stomach either, she said.

28 Nov 13:46

28 Nov 13:46

Rohde defence says "Forensic Medicine 101" says you can't use lividity to say in what position a person died.

Also, lividity could start after person taken down shortly after hanged self. Depends on a whole host of circumstances. Abrahams agrees.

28 Nov 13:37

28 Nov 13:30
Rohde trial resumes after short break. Pushing through lunch.

28 Nov 13:18

28 Nov 13:18


- The defence has cross examined chief pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams, questioning her objectivity regarding her opinion of Reggie Perumal's second autopsy report.

- The cross examination intensified, with the defence asking Abrahams if she would tailor her findings in favour of the State, since she is being paid.

- 'Irrational, unconstitutional, biased' - words used by defence to describe Abrahams' opinion on second autopsy report.Abrahams has told the court she deleted some of her notes while calculating Susan Rohde's time of death.

- Judge approaches Van Der Spuy's conduct during cross examination and threatens to report him.

- Van Der Spuy says witness evades the questions.Susan's time of death (and methods of calculation) is once again under scrutiny by the defence.

Court will resume after short interval.

28 Nov 13:15

28 Nov 13:00

28 Nov 12:59
Now Abrahams is being asked to read something on the "successful use of the nomogram".  All quiet while we wait. VD Spuys says even inventor of nomogram says a central mean value must not be offered.

28 Nov 12:52

28 Nov 12:49

Now the defence whips out the big blue Knight's Forensic Pathology.

Turn to page 84 if you just happen to have one on your desk. Refers to the Henssge Nomogram which helps calculate time of death.

28 Nov 12:48

28 Nov 12:30

28 Nov 12:30

Rigor mortis is the third stage of death once the heart stops beating.

The muscles of the body naturally start to stiffen.

It usually occured 2 or 3 hours after death. Rigor mortis is one of the factors used to determine possible time of death. 

28 Nov 12:18

28 Nov 12:12

Dr Abrahams being grilled over the list of 5 drugs tested for on Susan Rohde.

Defence asks her to bring to court the testing kit, testing strips, instruction pamphlet on how to interpret the strips.

28 Nov 12:07

28 Nov 12:07


This is not the first time Susan Rohde's time of death has come under scrutiny in court by the defence.

The State pathologist, Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan, who examined Susan Rohde's body following her death in July 2016, previously admitted under cross-examination that he made a mistake in calculating her time of death.

He said he used the cooling of body temperature to estimate that Susan passed away at 05:40 on July 24, 2016, with 95% accuracy.

Using this technique, Coetzee-Khan calculated that Susan passed away somewhere between 02:00 and 08:00 that day, and used the mean time as her time of death.

Van der Spuy said Coetzee-Khan's statement that his calculated time of death is 95% accurate was a lie.

28 Nov 11:51

28 Nov 11:51
Rohde defence says that at the time of the State autopsy on Susan Rohde, Dr Abrahams made no notes for herself. She says only did some time of death calculations, and deleted them after Coetzee-Khan's report was done.

28 Nov 11:50

28 Nov 11:11
The Rohde case has adjourned for 30 minutes after the judge called them all into chambers.

28 Nov 11:02

28 Nov 11:01

28 Nov 10:59


When Abrahams took the stand last week, she effectively tore to shreds the report of KwaZulu-Natal pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal, who conducted the second autopsy on Susan’s body.

She said Perumal's report mentioned the history of the case at the time, that she had hung herself, before he even conducted the autopsy.

"It may be an alleged history but not a factually proven history," she said.

28 Nov 10:45
Abrahams is asked if she knows that Dr Reggie Perumal is a senior man of standing in his profession. Abrahams says they are not here to discuss his track rercord, but his report on Susan.

28 Nov 10:39

28 Nov 10:36
Van der Spuy turns the tables on Dr Abrahams: Says she is paid by the State - does that mean she will tailor her findings in favour of the State? She says she does not. 

28 Nov 10:29

28 Nov 10:24
Defence asks pathologist if she thinks defence should work for nothing? Abrahams says the Inquest Act requires independence at autopsy.

28 Nov 10:23

28 Nov 10:18
Defence questions pathologist's objectivity given her remarks on the "so-called opinion" of Dr Reggie Perumal, who did the second autopsy on Susan Rohde, and was paid by defence. Perumal found suicide. State found strangulation.

28 Nov 10:14

28 Nov 10:13
Judge arrives and Rohde trial resumes with pathologist Dr Abrahams reminded she is under oath, and some admin over the documents handed up.

28 Nov 10:07

28 Nov 10:07

28 Nov 10:06


Pathologist's cross examination in Rohde trial halted

The Western Cape High Court trial of murder accused property mogul Jason Rohde has been postponed.

The postponement was granted to give Rohde’s defence team an opportunity to prepare to cross examine a pathologist, who observed the autopsy on his wife Susan.

Rohde is accused of murdering Susan at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch on July 24, 2016.

In the witness stand is Dr Deidre Abrahams, who is the chief pathologist in charge of the Western Cape government's Winelands and West Coast regions. 

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