Witness grilled on curling iron cord in Rodhe case

2018-03-15 21:00

Cape Town – A maintenance worker, who was the first witness to see the body of Susan Rohde after her death at the Spier Wine Estate in 2016, was grilled by her husband's defence lawyer on Thursday on the curling iron cord that had been found around her neck.

Under cross-examination by advocate Graham van der Spuy, State witness Desmond Daniels was asked to demonstrate how the cord was wound around Susan's neck the morning he found her in her hotel bathroom.

Murder accused Jason Rohde had asked Daniels, via the hotel switchboard, to assist him with the locked hotel bathroom door in the room he shared with his wife at the estate. They had been attending a conference there on July 24, 2016. Rohde is accused of murdering Susan and staging her suicide.

In previous testimony, Daniels had said the cord was found in such a way that the curling iron pointed upwards.

READ: How Susan Rohde’s body was found: 'I saw a leg near the basin' - court hears

However, on his second demonstration on Thursday, he was unable to duplicate the result.

When Van der Spuy pressed him to redo the demonstration, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe intervened and said that Daniels was not an expert on knots and that it made little sense for him to repeat the demonstration. 

She found Van der Spuy's line of questioning amounted to "badgering of the witness".

Van der Spuy objected to Salie-Hlophe's intervention.

"The court is interfering in my legal right to cross-examine the witness. The court has assisted this witness every step of the way," he argued. 

Salie-Hlophe asked Van der Spuy to move on with a different point.

"I don't appreciate your body language and tone. He [Daniels] is not an expert and he cannot show how the iron was knotted," she said.

Van der Spuy requested the assistance of fellow counsel Daniel Witz to complete the demonstration.

He noted "material differences" between Daniels's previous demonstration and what was presented to the court on Thursday.

Daniels had testified that, when he entered the bathroom, he saw Rohde holding his wife up underneath her arms with her face toward Daniels.

"When you removed the wire from around her neck you must have come quite close to her, correct?" asked Van der Spuy.

Daniels confirmed this, but said he did not notice the injury on her face.

"So you got quite close to her and you didn't see [it]? The reason you didn't see the injury is because she wasn’t facing you, she was facing Mr Rohde," Van der Spuy said.

What is the truth?

Daniels had previously testified that he had never seen Rohde give Susan CPR, yet it was recorded in his signed affidavit: "I saw Mr Rohde [try] to give this person mouth-to-mouth."

"You repeatedly said that you did not see him giving CPR. What is the truth - the truth in the witness box, or the truth in the statement? They can't both be true,” said Van der Spuy.

Daniels eventually conceded that he had seen Rohde perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Van der Spuy also questioned Daniels's timeline of events.

Daniels said he had received a request to open Rohde's locked bathroom door at 08:15, which he recorded in his notebook, and arrived at the hotel room at 08:21.

"You did arrive at the door much closer to 08:25 than what you’ve said. In fact, Mr Rohde's call was made at 08:22," he said.

Van der Spuy had earlier referred to Spier's official telephone records, which reflect the time of Rohde's phone call to the hotel switchboard.

'Untrue and dishonest'

"Your entire version of events up until the moment you arrived at Mr Rhode's door is untrue and dishonest.

"Your notebook used to corroborate your evidence is absolutely worthless. There is every indication that that entry was made at a later stage."

The 62-year-old handy man previously testified that it took him between five to six minutes to walk from the maintenance room to Rohde's hotel room.

Van der Spuy put it to Daniels that the first witness, Mark Thompson said that he arrived at 08:35 and Daniels was not present.

Daniels said he had remained on the scene until 08:40.

"Every piece of external evidence points to you being incorrect in everything you have said," said Van der Spuy. 

Cross-examination resumes on Monday.

Read more on:    susan rhode  |  jason rhode  |  cape town  |  courts  |  crime

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