Pathologist insists Susan Rohde was strangled

2017-12-04 16:25
Susan Rohde. (Image via Facebook)

Susan Rohde. (Image via Facebook)

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Cape Town - Susan Rohde was strangled and smothered and would have been "overcome" quickly, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

Dr Deirdre Abrahams, the chief pathologist who oversaw the autopsy conducted on Susan’s body, was testifying in the trial of Susan’s husband, Jason, who is accused of her murder.

The witness was back in the stand after the trial stood down on Thursday, so that she could attend to her car which had been smashed.

"The manual strangulation was very significant and I think that is the first and main course of death," she testified.

Abrahams told the court that external airway obstruction and smothering could be a "supportive" cause of death, but added that either one could also stand alone and cause death.

She said all the signs were there to support the autopsy findings that strangulation and smothering have caused Susan’s death and added that there were many other physical signs that were considered.

Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan, who conducted the autopsy, had observed blood on a pillow on the bedroom.

The colour around Susan's nose and mouth area, and some blanching on her cheeks showed that a soft object had been pressed against her face, which drained the blood out and did not allow it to fill up again.

There was haemorrhaging at the back of Susan's throat and at the base of her tongue.

"If something is pushed over the face, a person attempts to strain against the object and the blood fills up in the back of the throat," Abrahams said.

Grammar in report questioned

The autopsy also showed that there was haemorrhaging inside her scalp, but no injury to the back of her scalp - which fits the contention that there was force applied to Susan's face.

The autopsy was conducted by pathologist Coetzee-Khan and Abrahams had observed the procedure, due to the high-profile nature of the case and a dispute over whether she was murdered or whether she had committed suicide.

The court heard that a dental imprint was found on the inside of Susan's lip, confirming that there was pressure against her lip, which pushed against her teeth.

Abrahams insisted under cross-examination that a ligature mark found on Susan's neck was applied after her death.

Defence advocate Graham van der Spuy repeatedly told her she was incorrect, but she stood her ground.

The State was also accused of causing a fracture to part of Susan’s neck during an autopsy incision, which Abrahams denied.

At one point she was questioned on Coetzee-Khan's grammar in the report and asked why she had used so many adjectives in her own autopsy report.

The State was also accused of missing a mark on Susan's neck, which Abrahams also denied.

ALSO READ: Defence in Rohde case draws on death of Steve Biko in 'paid' autopsy argument

The court had heard that Jason Rohde had been attending a conference at Spier, in his capacity as then-CEO of Geffen International Realty Franchises, when a fight broke out between him and his wife because he wanted to go and find a woman he had been having an affair with, who had also been attending the conference.

He said that he went to bed early on the morning of July 24, 2016 to get some sleep before his address at the conference's closing day.

He could not access the bathroom and maintenance employees had to force open the door instead.

Susan’s body was found inside. Initially, it was a suspected suicide. However, the investigation later changed to murder.

Jason has pleaded not guilty to the murder as well as a charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly staging a hanging.

The trial continues.

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

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