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The Rohde Trial So Far: Colleague Who Tried To Revive Susan Testifies, Mistress Could Be Called Next

Several things made the witness uneasy.

10/10/2017 17:03 SAST | Updated 11/10/2017 11:20 SAST
Jaco Marais/ Foto24/ Gallo Images/ Getty Images
Murder accused Jason Rohde in court on October 9 2017.

A colleague of murder accused Jason Rohde tried to resuscitate his wife Susan at the Spier Wine Farm, but felt uneasy after noticing several things that did not add up at the crime scene, he told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

It was revealed that the woman with whom property mogul Jason Rohde admitted to having an affair is to testify for the prosecution.

Jolene Alterskye was included in a list of state witnesses that was handed up in the Western Cape High Court, to add to the summary of substantial facts and support the charges of murder and defeating/obstructing the ends of justice.

Rohde pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.

In his plea explanation, the father of three daughters admitted to an extramarital affair with his colleague, something he said he was not proud of.

According to the state, her testimony would acknowledge that she had seen Rohde and his wife Susan shortly before her body was found hanging from a bathroom door in the married couple's hotel room on July 24 2016.

The three had attended Sotheby's annual conference at the Spier Wine Farm in the Stellenbosch area.

'It was a suicide'

Rohde was adamant that she committed suicide and that he did not stage her suicide.

He said Susan found out about the affair in 2016 and insisted on accompanying him to the annual conference, despite no other partners doing the same.

She knew that Alterskye would be there. Her conduct vacillated between anger, resentment, desperation and sadness, he said in his plea explanation.

Susan had apparently prevented him forcefully from leaving the room. He said she pulled and grabbed at him continually. As he tried to get her to back off, his arm connected with her.

Denies attacking Susan

"She did sustain injuries and she also fell. I never attacked her. Susan also sustained an injury before the weekend," he stated.

The state alleged that Susan was killed by means of manual strangulation and/or violence inflicted by means unknown.

'Mark help me'

Mark Thompson, an operations manager at Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty, was called as the state's first witness.

Thompson said he had known Jason for about seven years.

Thompson, Rohde and his wife had attended their annual conference at the wine farm at the end of July 2016.

On Sunday July 24, he was leaving the breakfast table when a colleague said there was some trouble in a room, apparently a suicide.

"I said, 'What if it is one of ours [staff]?' and went to look for the room," said Thompson.

As he got to the room, cleaning staff told him there was a "white man inside and a white woman who tried to hang herself".

He saw Susan's body lying on the bathroom floor and Rohde sitting next to her.

"I was in a bit of shock and Jason looked up and said, 'Mark help me, Mark help me'."

She was 'porcelain white'

Thompson said he immediately started compressing her chest and blew into her mouth. He forgot to block her nose.

"I have never done CPR and I forgot to block her nose. I said to him, 'Don't worry Jason, we will get her back'."

It became clear to him that she was dead because her body was cold, she was "porcelain white" and her lips were blue.

He felt he could not let Rohde and everyone else down, so he carried on performing CPR for 30 to 45 minutes.

At one stage, he said Rohde got up and blew into her mouth once before sitting down again.

Thompson got excited when blood came out of her nose because he thought her heart was pumping again.

He recalled telling her husband, "Jase, Jase, I think we got her back." He apparently did not respond.

Thompson wiped the blood away a few times.

Naked body with a 'massive bruise'

What struck him about the scene was her nakedness.

He wondered why she was still naked and why nobody had covered her body. A "massive bruise" near her thigh disturbed him.

Something also did not add up for him about the cord hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

"Susan was a fairly tall woman. The knot at the top by the hook wasn't taut, as I would expect if somebody had hung on there," he noted.

"On the one side of the two strands hanging down was a small single knot and I was thinking... it clearly couldn't have been taken off her neck because it was a small loop."

He said Rohde's lack of reaction and interaction with his wife surprised him.

"He never said, 'Susan I love you. Susan, what about the girls? Susan, I am sorry.'"

Thompson could not understand how the position of her body -- head furthest from the door and her feet under the basin -- correlated with her hanging on the door.

He noticed a small stool [faeces] lying next to her hip and a pool of urine pooling at her buttocks.

In his mind, she would have defecated at the door.

List of witnesses

Seventeen witnesses are on the list, made up of mostly police officials and experts.

These include:

  • Captain Mofokeng from the mechanical and metallurgical engineering section of the Forensic Science Laboratory, which did tests on the left-hand side hook of the bathroom door on to which the cord was tied, to establish whether the hook could withstand an approximate weight of 51kg;
  • Colonel Poolman, from the same section of the forensic science laboratory, who received a hair tool and cable from the investigating team, to establish whether it was possible to open the bathroom door from the outside and whether there was any failure to the electric cable to indicate that the deceased had hung herself;
  • Captain Joubert, a forensic crime scene expert and bloodstain pattern expert, who analysed bloodstains at the front door, on the bathroom and bedroom floors and on white bedding in the couple's hotel room;
  • Warrant Officer van Niekerk, a Worcester SAPS official, who analysed cellphone records with the aim of proving communication between Rohde, his wife, Alterskye and two others;
  • Mr Eben, who was Susan's personal trainer;
  • Jane Newcombe, a clinical psychologist whom Susan consulted eight times after discovering Rohde was having an affair.

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