Rohde trial: Evidence may have been 'contaminated' - defence

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State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Cape Town  The evidence of the pathologist who inspected the scene of Bryanston mom Susan Rohde's death may be tainted by his early suspicion that she had been murdered, the defence said in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

Advocate Graham van der Spuy said the moment Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan suspected that there may have been foul play, the focus of his pathology report was coloured by that.

Coetzee-Khan even went as far as suggesting to police that they ask for her husband Jason's passport in case he fled the country, which, according to Van der Spuy, experts he consulted consider "outrageous" and "unheard" of for a pathologist.

AS IT HAPPENED: 'Mistakes' over time of death in Rohde case

Van der Spuy said that once the suspicion of murder was raised, there was a request for Jason to be examined for defensive wounds. 

Coetzee-Khan said in a case involving strangulation, it is likely that that there could be scratch marks on the face and arms of the perpetrator. Fingernail swabs could also be taken for evidence.

Jason was examined a few days after his wife died. He had flown back to Cape Town after going to see his children in Johannesburg.

Premature conclusion

Van der Spuy said that apart from one small scratch on Jason's finger, there was nothing to indicate that he had been injured by a person fighting off somebody trying to strangle them.

"And the bottom line is, nothing like that was found," said Van der Spuy.

There were also no scratches on his neck.

Van der Spuy said an expert he consulted said this was something he continually warned his students of that a premature conclusion can create a bias that contaminates the pathologist's work.

Earlier on Thursday, the court heard that Susan had injured her inner thigh after falling into a dumbbell after a handstand.

READ: Susan Rohde's bruise was from a handstand fall - defence

This was in the context of the pathologist's opinion that she may have had battered woman syndrome.

Susan was found dead in a bathroom at Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch on July 24. At first it was thought she had hanged herself after an argument with her husband, but then the police started a murder probe.

The trial continues.


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