Susan Rohde was strangled to death - chief pathologist

2017-11-22 20:40
Jason Rohde. (File: Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Jason Rohde. (File: Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town - Susan Rohde may have spent her last moments swallowing blood, battling to breathe and in pain after suffering severe blunt force trauma to her ribs, according to testimony presented at the murder trial of her husband Jason in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

"I think this person might have been in pain after this injury," testified Dr Deidre Abrahams, who chose to refer to Susan, not by her name.

"The person was alive, breathing...," said Abrahams, when asked by prosecutor Louis van Niekerk to comment on the physical effect Susan's injuries had on her body.

READ: State 'skipped procedures' in Susan Rohde's autopsy, defence alleges

Susan was found dead at Spier Wine Estate in the early hours of Sunday, July 24, 2016.

The couple had been attending Sotheby's annual conference and the court heard that it had been a time of stress for them as they grappled with the effects of an affair he had with an estate agent, Jolene Alterskye, who was also present at the conference.

Jason was attending in his capacity as then CEO of Geffen International Realty Franchise and had delivered a speech at the dinner dance before the evening descended into a violent argument over Alterskye in their suite afterwards. 

READ: Susan Rohde 'went ballistic' at Spier when she caught husband texting girlfriend

It spilled out into pathways between the rooms at Spier as a "ballistic" Susan tried to stop Jason from going to see Alterskye.

At one point, Susan fell into a garden, but the couple eventually returned to their suite, still simmering, the court heard.

The defence has contended that many of the injuries found on Susan's body could have been a result of pushing and pulling during the argument, previous injuries, and even injuries caused by the State pathologist during his autopsy.

According to Jason, Susan went into the bathroom and he went to sleep. When he woke up later, he could not open the door. With the help of maintenance, it was opened and she was found dead.

It was initially considered a suicide, but the State later charged her husband with murder and of staging a suicide.

He has pleaded not guilty.

READ: Susan Rohde traumatised, but not suicidal says couple's counsellor

Abrahams explained earlier that she was contacted by Akmal Coetzee-Khan, who was on call for autopsies that weekend.

He told his boss of some anomalies he said he found on Susan's body and at the scene.

She said that Coetzee-Khan was also alarmed that the door to the bathroom could not be opened easily. He said there was no key, but that there was a lock, which could be opened easily.

Taking his observations over the telephone into account, as well as the high-profile nature of the case, she decided to be present at the autopsy.

Abrahams is the chief pathologist for the Winelands/West Coast region of the Western Cape.

She concluded in her report that she agreed with Coetzee-Khan's finding that Susan had been manually strangled and that the ligature mark on her neck occurred after her death.

Autopsy pictures

Commenting on several pictures of the autopsy, projected onto a wall in the courtroom, she said there were clear signs that blunt force trauma broke three of Susan's ribs; a lung had been injured, and she had ingested some blood before she died.

"She may have been able to walk, albeit slowly," said Abrahams.

The accused sat near her because the images were projected behind where he usually sits in the dock. His body was still throughout the showing of the graphic autopsy pictures and he kept his head tilted away from the pictures. 

She said a very severe force had broken Susan's ribs.

Earlier, before Coetzee-Khan stepped down, he was asked if he still thought that Susan had been a victim of battered woman syndrome.

He replied that, when he said that, he had only been told of a verbal altercation between the couple.

However, Jason's latest account, presented on Tuesday, indicated that there was an element of violence between the couple.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    susan rohde  |  cape town  |  crime

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