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Defence in Jason Rohde murder trial present closing arguments

CAPE TOWN, November 7  – State pathologist and crime scene expert reports into the death of Susan Rohde at a Stellenbosch hotel contradicted each other, the High Court in Cape Town heard on Wednesday.

Murder accused Jason Rohde’s defence advocate Graham van der Spuy was presenting his closing arguments in the case where his client is accused of killing his wife in 2016.

Susan Rohde’s body was found with an electronic cord wrapped around her neck and hanging from a hook behind the bathroom door of the room she shared with her husband on July 24, 2016, at the Spier Wine Estate hotel.

The State has argued that she was murdered by her husband, but the defence insists she had committed suicide.

State forensic pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan performed the first autopsy on Susan Rohde’s body and concluded that she was murdered.

Van der Spuy told the court he suspected State advocate Louis van Niekerk was trying to suggest malice because when forensic crime scene expert and blood spatter analyst Captain Marius Joubert examined the deceased, he reported the bathrobe she was dressed in was turned inside out. The defence argued that this was never confirmed by the pathologist.

“Dr Khan was never asked what the position was with regards to her gown. But what we do know is that nowhere in Dr Khan’s report that he mentioned having found the deceased to be clothed with her dressing gown with bathrobe inside out,” Van der Spuy said.

“The point that was raised several times by my learned friend [Van Niekerk], and I suspect that he is attempting to riddle into his case the suggestion of something sinister involved in the fact that when Captain Joubert examined the deceased on Sunday the 24th of July, 2016, that her bathrobe was inside out, he mentioned that a few times,” said Van der Spuy.

“And I think that he is trying to link that up, I suspect, with the allegation that the accused, for whatever reason put the dressing gown on her after Mr Daniels had left the scene,” he added.

Desmond Daniels is the handyman who opened the locked bathroom door behind which Susan’s body was discovered. When Van der Spuy cross-examined Daniels, the handyman claimed Rohde had changed the position of the cord after he left the scene.

Van der Spuy further said that it was interesting to note that Captain Joubert, in his own report, said it was not at all unusual for patients, especially when they put garments on at night time, to put them on back to front.

“But more important than that, let us not lose sight of the following, before Captain Joubert came on the scene, during the later afternoon of Sunday the 24th, that the deceased had been free and comprehensively seen and examined by at least one other person, namely Dr Khan,” he said, adding that Dr Khan’s examination took place somewhere around about 1 o’clock during the afternoon.

“If he is to be believed, he examined that patient comprehensively. He also examined her entire back. How do you examine such a patient’s back and make the observations that he made without taking the gown that she is wearing,” questioned Van der Spuy. “You can’t do it.”

Van der Spuy further stated that during cross-examination, what Van Niekerk put repeatedly to the accused and repeated in his argument on Tuesday was that Rohde’s wife was argumentative, noisy, upsetting him and he wanted to shut her up, and in consequence, he smothered her.

“Now he considered that actually, the State doesn’t know what caused the deceased’s death. And I would submit that that signals a fatal flaw in the case of the State. And I submit that upon a proper analysis the accused’s version of events is supported and collaborated by all objectively determined facts and evidence proven during the trail,” he insisted.

“And in that regard, for example, I include the following, all the DNA evidence that was produced and is a matter of record, all the expert fingerprint that was produced and it’s a matter of record, the telephone record that was produced, the SMS records that were produced, the Spier hotel telephone records, the blood spatter evidence and various other admitted items of evidence,” said Van der Spuy.

Closing arguments were finalised on Wednesday. Judgement will be delivered on Thursday. (ANA)

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