Rohde trial: 10 things the defence says the State pathologist missed

2018-06-07 16:52
Jason Rohde (File, Gallo Images)

Jason Rohde (File, Gallo Images)

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WATCH LIVE: Pathologist continues testifying in Rohde trial

2018-06-07 11:44

Pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal continues testifying in the murder trial of Jason Rohde. Watch live.WATCH

A State pathologist missed 10 things while performing the first autopsy on Susan Rohde in 2016 and made some "rookie mistakes" in his observations on the Spier hotel bathroom, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday.

This was according to the testimony of defence witness Dr Reggie Perumal, who was hired by her husband Jason Rohde to do a second autopsy about five days after the first one by Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan.

Perumal was called to the stand after Rohde told the court he had been traumatised after discovering his wife’s hanging body, and had felt responsible that he had driven her to suicide because of his affair.

READ: Rohde’s pathologist challenges smothering, physical altercation findings

Rohde has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife and defeating/obstructing the ends of justice by staging a suicide and supplying false information to police.

Continuing with his evidence-in-chief, Perumal said that, in the first autopsy, Coetzee-Khan missed six things on Susan's body and failed to conduct four procedures.

The things he allegedly missed are: a ligature mark on the back of her neck, a U-shaped scar on her right knee, a scar under her right breast, bruises on her left and right arms, a bruise on the left forearm, and fractures of four left ribs and the sternum.

Perumal said the pathologist also failed to do a facial flap dissection to reveal anything unusual in the underlying tissue to suggest smothering, a tongue incision to reveal hemorrhaging (bleeding), a subsequent radiological examination (imaging techniques), and a histological (microscopic tissue) evaluation of organs.

'Rookie mistake'

He also criticised some of Coetzee-Khan's observations that were made after visiting the scene where the body was found.

Perumal said it was not the role of any pathologist to recommend that the police seize an accused's passport for fear that he may flee.

He "respectfully" submitted that Coetzee-Khan made a "rookie mistake" by assuming the accumulation of blood in the lower parts of the body was a reliable indicator of the position in which someone had died.

The same could be said for his finding of smothering because of the paleness of her lips and nose, he added.

Perumal stated in his post-mortem report that his findings during the second autopsy were consistent with ligature strangulation, as in the case of hanging.

He also testified this week about how injuries to her upper neck and chest areas were consistent with those sustained during CPR procedures.

The court heard on Thursday that it was relatively easy to hang oneself and that unconsciousness set in after eight seconds, after which it would be impossible to backtrack on the decision.

Perumal listed all the bodily processes that led to death by hanging.

'We don’t have the whole picture'

He cautioned that no pathologist could be sure of the cause of death.

"At the time of the autopsy, we don’t have the whole picture. We only have what injuries are presenting," he said.

"I am saying to the court that I can say it is consistent with hanging, but I can’t be categorical or adamant about this finding. It is the role of the court which has far more access to all the information."

Defence lawyer Graham van der Spuy reminded Perumal that Dr Deidre Abrahams, another State pathologist, had brought Perumal's objectivity and reliability into question by accusing him of being a "hired gun", because he was paid by the defence.

Perumal branded her comments "most ridiculous" and "outrageous".

He said that, as with all experts, his documents were subject to scrutiny by the court.

"I won't sacrifice my independence and credibility for any person or institution."

His cross-examination was held over until a later stage.

Rohde's case will resume on Monday morning when the defence calls a psychiatrist to testify.

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

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