Staged suicide‚ beaten-up woman: Pathologist's verdict on Susan Rohde

12 October 2017 - 14:16
By Aron Hyman
Murder accused Jason Rohde speaks with his defense team in court before day four begins.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux Murder accused Jason Rohde speaks with his defense team in court before day four begins.

Susan Rohde’s “suicide” was not only staged but she had been beaten days before her death‚ a state forensic pathologist said on Thursday.

Dr Akmal Khan told the High Court in Cape Town that a horizontal ligature mark around Susan’s neck was made after her death by someone trying to stage her suicide.

The true cause of death was manual strangulation‚ he said.

WATCH | State forensic pathologist says Susan's death was a staged suicide

Susan’s multi-millionaire husband‚ Jason Rohde‚ is on trial for her murder‚ which he denies. He claims Susan hanged herself with an electric cord in the bathroom of their hotel suite at the Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch in July 2016.

Referring to the ligature mark caused by an electric cable‚ Khan said: “The mark was applied after death so it’s a staging of a hanging. The person is already dead so now somebody tries to imprint the [mark from the electrical cable]. Because they don't know how it is supposed to look‚ they get it wrong.”

Images of Susan’s naked body at the scene of the crime were shown in court on Thursday‚ with a large bruise on her upper thigh clearly visible.

Khan said the greenish colour of the bruise was an indication that it was a few days old‚ and other marks on her body indicated “battered woman syndrome”. The pictures also depicted a blackened left eye with a haemorrhage near her eyebrow which Khan said was consistent with blunt force trauma from a fist. He said the haemorrhaging was caused by a ring on one of the assailant’s fingers.

Khan countered the findings of Dr Reggie Perumal‚ a pathologist hired by the defence to conduct a second autopsy.

He said if Perumal did not come to the conclusion that a broken hyoid bone in the neck and haemorrhages near the thyroid bone were the cause of death he would be misleading the court.