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


Cape Town – The defence in the murder trial of Johannesburg businessman Jason Rohde claims that his wife Susan, whom he is accused of murdering, injured her thigh while doing a handstand.

The claim, made in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday, comes after the court heard evidence from State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan that Susan may have been a victim of 'Battered Woman Syndrome', after he found bruises of different ages on her.

READ: Rohde murder trial: Expert under fire over 'battered woman syndrome' comment

However, in an attempt to dispel that claim, the defence brought out an affidavit by Susan's mother, Diane Holmes, which was read out in court.

In it, Holmes said her daughter told her she had injured her leg doing a handstand.

At the time, Susan had been choosing an outfit that she could wear when she accompanied her husband, former CEO of Geffen International Realty Franchises, to the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch for the company's annual conference in July 2016.

A handstand injury

While trying on dresses, she did a handstand and landed on a dumbbell, bruising her thigh, the court heard.

Rohde's counsel, Graham van der Spuy, said the Rohdes were gym enthusiasts and that Susan liked doing handstands.

He said Susan had bandaged the injury tightly, using a crepe bandage, in the hope that the swelling would subside.

Holmes said that her daughter had inherited a condition that involved having very thin skin.

"It is a hereditary condition and bruising is quickly evident," Van der Spuy added.

Extract from Susan Rohde's mom, Diane Holmes' affidavit on how she her daughter got inner thigh bruise. (Jenni Evans, News24)

In a separate affidavit, Susan's sister Angela Norton said that she had not mentioned in her earlier affidavit that Susan told her about the injury and that she hoped it did not show through her skinny jeans.

The court heard that Susan had bruised so easily as a child that she was taken for a leukaemia investigation, which turned to be negative.

Last week, while testifying about his autopsy, Coetzee-Khan said he thought Susan may have suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome.

He asked the investigating officer for a medical history, but he said there was "nothing known".

Van der Spuy questioned why Coetzee-Khan just accepted this and did not do any biopsies, or expect the investigating officer to find out for him. 

On Thursday he said women experiencing Battered Woman Syndrome, usually blamed the injury on something else.

The history provided to Coetzee-Khan before he did the autopsy included claims that the Rohdes had argued and that Susan had locked herself in the bathroom.

It also stated that Jason Rohde called maintenance to open the door. Once it had been opened, Susan's body was found.

She had hung herself with the cord of an electric curling iron, from a hook, at the back of the bathroom door. 

She was declared dead on July 24, 2016 after efforts to resuscitate her failed.

The State alleges that she was murdered by her husband.

He has pleaded not guilty.

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