Susan Rohde was a fighter and had more than her marriage to live for - State during closing arguments

2018-11-06 15:56
Susan Rohde. (Image via Facebook)

Susan Rohde. (Image via Facebook)

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WATCH LIVE: Closing arguments in Rohde trial - was it suicide or murder?

2018-11-06 10:19

Did a heartbroken Susan Rohde end her own life in the bathroom of a fancy winelands hotel in July 2016 or did her husband Jason violently cut her life short? Closing arguments will be presented in the Western Cape High Court. Watch live.WATCH

It is inconceivable that Susan Rohde would have given up and tried to end her life in a hotel bathroom as it was her character to deal with issues head-on and fight for what she loved.

This was the essence of the first half of the State's closing arguments during her husband Jason Rohde's trial in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday morning.

Before launching into the testimonies of his witnesses, prosecutor Louis van Niekerk stressed the need for Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe to see the evidence in its totality.

In this context, he argued, it was beyond reasonable doubt that Rohde killed his wife, but not that she'd killed herself.

He pointed out that the court had rare insight into Susan Rohde's state of mind leading up to her death thanks to the evidence presented by her psychologist, Jane Newcombe.

Newcombe, who Susan trusted and relied on for support, was of the opinion that her client was anxious, not depressed.

Last conversation a 'cathartic moment'

"It is my argument that she dealt with his [Jason's] infidelity, she coped and there was no cop out for her. I want to stress that, my lady. It is so, so unlikely that she would just get up, naked, and go hang herself behind the bathroom door in that state she was found in," said Van Niekerk.

Salie-Hlophe said she understood that the couple's last conversation, which dealt with their future, had been a "cathartic moment" for Susan.

"It's the moment which the court must understand and whether those words that were expressed to her could have led to her walking to the bathroom and taking her own life."

Van Niekerk said it was pure speculation that the possibility of her marriage ending would have pushed Susan over the edge.

According to those who knew her, he said, Susan was not scared of confrontation and fought fiercely for things she believed in. It was also unlikely she would abandon her three daughters, who she loved dearly.

On the weekend in question, he said Susan "went all out" for her marriage by preparing her wardrobe and hoping she and Jason would end up stronger.

A cry for help, perhaps?

At the same time, "so much more was going on in her life than her marriage relationship," he said.

Van Niekerk argued it was simply not in her character that she would give up on that fight. It also did not make sense that she would commit suicide while naked.

WATCH: Closing arguments in Rohde trial - was it suicide or murder?

Jason has pleaded not guilty to killing her and staging her suicide.

The defence maintains that Susan used a ligature to end her life or had a failed parasuicide attempt.

Salie-Hlophe wondered whether one scenario was that Susan attempted suicide as a cry for help.

Van Niekerk said this was unimaginable as Susan was not alone; she relied on her psychologist and others for help. 

Evidence not conclusive on exact cause of death

He said Jason's recollection of the couple's last verbal argument was a "carefully crafted choreography", "an extremely controlled version and [he had a] remarkable good recollection of the minute data of the physical altercation with the deceased".

Van Niekerk said Jason "snapped" at some stage and wanted Susan to shut up.

"Exactly how she then died, whether she was smothered, whether he took a hand to her neck, caused her to die... The medical evidence, it's not conclusive as to the exact method of death."

He said Jason panicked and could not hang his wife completely because of her weight so he placed a single cord around her neck and she was partially suspended.

This tied in with the evidence of maintenance worker Desmond Daniels, he said, who testified that he found Susan in that position on the floor.

"After he came in and left, Jason panicked further... and thought he must use the cord in a different fashion and that is why we found both strings hanging."

Gown allegedly put on Susan in moment of panic

He said it was clear from his pathologists' testimonies that the ligature mark would have been consistent around her neck if she had been hanging.

"Whether [the ligature was] tight or not, this is physical evidence that I submit the defence can't get away from. The accused can't tell us whether it was a single or double cord around the neck."

He said Jason wanted the court to believe that Susan was wearing her gown at the time, when he had actually placed it on afterwards in a moment of panic.

She could not have been wearing her gown because her faeces was found on the towels outside the bathroom and at her buttocks but not on the back of the door or her gown, he argued.

He questioned the accused's version that the two had ended their argument at some stage and fallen asleep.

He said Captain Marius Joubert, the police's blood splatter expert, had found her blood on the duvet cover and pillowcase.

"She was bleeding, she still had mascara on. In that state, to get into bed to sleep for an hour or two... and to have no communication for that period..."

Interjecting, Salie-Hlophe said Susan and Jason's mistress had been in phone contact around 07:00 that day. 

Van Niekerk said it may not have been Susan who sent those messages from her phone.

The trial continues.

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

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