Susan Rohde felt like she was 'being played for a fool'
Her psychologist‚ Jane Newcombe‚ came to this conclusion after analysing hundreds of WhatsApp messages sent between Susan and Rohde in the months leading up to her mysterious death in July last year. Jason Rohde is on trial for her murder but he claims that she had been depressed and committed suicide in the bathroom of their hotel suite.
Newcombe testified in the high court in Cape Town that she was shocked when she was initially told that Susan had taken her own life. Based on their eight therapy sessions before her death she did not perceive Susan as suicidal or depressive.
Defence advocate Pete Mihalik on Thursday accused Newcombe of being incompetent and claimed she had misdiagnosed Susan with anxiety rather than depression. It emerged in court that Rohde had an affair with real estate agent Jolene Alterskye.
Mihalik quoted numerous WhatsApp messages including one in which Susan told Rohde: “Sometimes I just want to die.”
Newcombe said that this and many other exaggerated messages should be seen in the context of their fights caused by the affair.
She said that in January‚ even before Susan found out about the affair‚ she was already suspicious. Newcombe said their relationship appeared “rocky” and in February‚ after learning about the affair‚ she sent Rohde a curt message - “I hate you”.
“I think it’s clear that Susan speaks with exaggerated phrases. When she says 'I hate you'‚ I suspect she uses it in the same way children use it with their parents to exclaim intensity‚” said Newcombe.
She said that once Susan found out about the affair she was clearly in shock as she only sent a single message to him in three days. In March Susan told Jason about her suspicion that Alterskye had stayed in their family holiday home in Plettenberg Bay.
“When someone has an affair their partner has to play catch-up when they find out about it. It’s very similar to grief‚ it’s trauma‚ a huge shock and betrayal‚” she said.
“It’s similar to PTSD but it doesn’t fit that description because her life is not physically in danger. It’s an emotional sense that she would experience as life threatening but not in a practical sense.”
She said that Susan was committed to trying to make their marriage work‚ but every time she enquired about the affair Rohde would withdraw from her. She would start panicking and this would result in emotional outbursts. “She is looking for ‘the truth’ so that she can go back to a position of certainty. Her life has been shaken and she doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t‚” Newcombe continued.
From the Whatsapp messages it is clear‚ said Newcombe‚ that she did not trust Rohde and wanted him to prove his loyalty‚ but he just became more distant.
“Very often the case is that [betrayed partners] feel the lies and the cover ups are an affront to their intelligence. It feels like they are being played for a fool. It could be a more prominent factor than sexual betrayal‚” said Newcombe.
The trial continues on Monday.