Susan Rohde said she wanted to die - court hears

2017-11-08 16:26
Jason and Susan Rohde (Facebook)

Jason and Susan Rohde (Facebook)

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Cape Town - The wife of murder accused property boss Jason Rohde threatened that she felt like dying in the weeks leading up to her death, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

"I don't really care anyway because I know for the whole 302 days you were with her," texted Susan to Jason in May 2016, after finding out in February that he was having an affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alterskye.

She had discovered a Valentine's Day card from Alterskye in his suitcase, and according to the defence, became depressed and irrational in the months following, leading to her suicide on July 24, 2016.

The State alleges that he murdered her at Spier wine estate and staged a suicide. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

"You want to leave me and you hate me. I could feel it...," said Susan in a message to Jason in the weeks leading to her death.

"...For 302 days I was sad.

"Now for 72 days I felt like dying."

READ: Susan Rohde showed warning signs of suicide - defence

This message was read out to court by her therapist Jane Newcombe, who Rohde's defence lawyer Pete Mihalik has accused of negligence for not picking up that Susan was feeling suicidal.

Newcombe diagnosed her with anxiety and previously told the court that at no time did she feel that Susan was at risk of suicide.

She said that Susan never said anything about wanting to die, in therapy, but if she had, she would put in motion plans for Susan to see a psychiatrist.

"If she was saying that to me as an impartial observer it would raise grave concerns," said Newcombe, explaining that she did not know about any of these messages.

She conceded that Susan had lost a lot of weight, had said she was drinking more than usual, and had sleep disturbances, but believed these were directly related to her anxiety about the affair and her marriage.

Low self-esteem but not at risk of suicide

Whether Susan had shown signs of suicide or suicidal ideation is key to supporting Rohde's contention that he found her hanging from the back of the bathroom door, in a suite they shared during a visit to the Spier wine farm.

Jason was attending a conference in his capacity as CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realtors, and according to Newcombe, Susan had been hoping the weekend would be a relaxing one spent putting on a united front in the aftermath of the affair.

Alterskye was also at the conference and Susan met her briefly.

Newcombe said she only became worried about Susan when she did not arrive for her scheduled appointment towards the end of July and had not been active on WhatsApp.

ALSO READ: Susan Rohde's psychologist shocked by her 'suicide'

She later heard from one of Susan's co-trauma counsellors with the Sandton police that somebody in the counselling group had committed suicide.

"I started to worry in my mind, could it have been Susan?"

The court heard on Tuesday that she asked a senior to check Susan's therapy notes to see if she had missed anything about suicide. She was relieved that no obvious signs were found.

She told Mihalik that Susan did not have a particularly good relationship with her sister Angela or her father, and had become irritated by her mother.

She had relied on Jason as her confidant and had told nobody about the affair.

She was angry, felt unlovable and had low self-esteem but was definitely not at risk of suicide, said Newcombe.

Mood swings

She conceded that she did not note which medication Susan was on, and nor did she contact her GP or check whether the medication's side effects and Susan's state of mind might have formed a "cocktail" for suicide.

She also conceded that Susan had told her that she became so distressed during couple's therapy with a different counsellor, that the counsellor wanted to have her admitted to hospital to be treated possibly for anxiety and distress.

Newcombe took Susan at her word when she said she did not think it would have any point and did not contact the counsellor for more details.

She said people in situations where a spouse has been unfaithful are rocked severely.

"It shakes their sense of self-esteem, which means they are not sure if they are lovable anymore."

Susan would have had mood swings where she tried to show she was lovable, but at other times, her anger and resentment would show through.

Newcombe said Susan's references to wanting to die in her messages could also have been a way of manipulating Jason.

'I have to beg you to be with you'

One was in a message to Jason that all her therapists were worried about her killing herself.

Newcombe said the messages had to be seen in context, which she did not have yet and it was sent to Jason a day after her first session with Susan.

But the defence insisted that Newcombe had missed key clues.

"You will see from the content of this that Susan followed Jason's every move, that her behaviour was irrational, that there were mood swings up and down, and that she clearly verbalised her desire to die," said Mihalik.

ALSO READ: 'My penguin forever': Rohde love triangle revealed in WhatsApp record

In one she wrote: "Do you have any idea of how insecure you make me feel all this time?"

Others were: "I hope you and she rot in hell together"; "I hate you more than I have ever hated anyone in my life" and "Sometimes I just want to die".

She also wrote that she had to beg Jason to go to places with him.

"I have to beg you to go places with you, I have to beg you to be with you."

The matter was postponed to Thursday for Newcombe to read through all the extracted messages to help her gain insight into their context.

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

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