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Rohde's advocate turns screws on maintenance man

15 March 2018 - 12:09 By Philani Nombembe
Jason Rohde is accused of murdering his wife Susan Rohde at the Spier Wine Estate. File photo
Jason Rohde is accused of murdering his wife Susan Rohde at the Spier Wine Estate. File photo
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

Murder accused businessman Jason Rohde’s counsel began losing patience on Thursday with an evasive state witness who resorted to answering difficult questions with “no comment”.

Spier wine estate maintenance worker Desmond Daniels‚ 62‚ previously told the high court in Cape Town that he received a call from a male colleague to go to the room shared by Rohde and his wife‚ Susan‚ at 8.15am on July 24‚ 2016. He said the caller did not tell him the bathroom door was locked from inside.

But Rohde’s advocate‚ Graham van der Spuy‚ produced the affidavit of another state witness‚ switchboard operator Mavis Dingalibali‚ which contradicted Daniels’ version of events.

According to Dangalibali‚ a male guest called the switchboard from room 221 and “asked me to call someone in maintenance or someone who can help open the door because it is locked from inside”.

Van der Spuy said: “She says she passed the message via the radio. She says Desmond Daniels answered and said he will go and see.”

Daniels responded: “No comment.” Van der Spuy asked him if he meant that his colleague was lying. Daniels said he had no comment. Van der Spuy asked him: “Who coached you to say that when you have a difficult question? Can you think of any reason under the sun that Mavis would say that?”

Daniels said he had no comment. Van der Spuy said Daniels’ version was not true.

Rohde‚ the former Lew Geffen/Sotheby’s International Realty chief executive‚ was staying at Spier with his wife when she was found dead with the cord of a hair iron around her neck behind the locked door.

The businessman is charged with murder and obstructing the administration of justice by making her death look like a suicide. They have three daughters.

The indictment against Rohde accuses him of placing the cord around Susan’s neck “in a double strand around the clothing/towel hook at the back of the bathroom door”. He then supplied false information to police‚ it says.

“The postmortem examination conducted on the body of the deceased shows the cause of death as consistent with asphyxia following manual strangulation and external airway obstruction‚” says the indictment.

“The features of the ligature imprint abrasion mark are consistent with postmortem application to the neck.”

The trial continues.