Chilling testimony in Rohde murder trial
“I killed her! I killed her! I killed her!” this is what a sobbing Jason Rohde told the brother of his wife Susan. The businessman is on trial for her murder but has pleaded not guilty.
Testifying in the Cape Town High Court on Monday‚ Michael Holmes said that four days after he was told his sister had committed suicide at the Spier Wine Estate near Stellenbosch in July 2016‚ he was awoken by Rohde's phone call on a Wednesday night at 10.30 pm Melbourne time.
“Jason was very emotional. He was sobbing and crying quite profusely. It was difficult to hear what he was saying‚” said Holmes.
“He told me‚ 'I killed her! I killed her! I killed her!'”
The only information Holmes had received at the time was that Susan had committed suicide and he thought that Rohde was only voicing his grief and guilt. He did not think Rohde was admitting to murder.
“I tried to comfort him‚ I tried to tell him it wasn’t his fault. I told him the family all loved him‚” said Holmes.
Rohde was the chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty and stands accused of murdering Susan during the company’s annual conference which was held at the estate.
According to the state in 2016 Susan found out that Rohde was having an affair with an estate agent. She insisted on going along to the conference which was also attended by his mistress.
A fight broke out between the couple and the state claims Rohde beat Susan up. She sustained broken ribs‚ abrasions‚ and she swallowed significant amounts of her own blood as a result.
The defence claims she fell and bruised her lungs and ribs on a small garden wall. The bruises on her face were sustained because Rohde accidentally hit her during an altercation.
Holmes‚ who flew in from Australia on Saturday to attend the trial‚ said that after the call he and his partner‚ Anthony‚ flew from Melbourne to attend a family meeting at Rohde’s family home in Bryanston on July 29.
“Jason initiated the meeting. He shared with us the further discussion he had with the police and that he was under investigation. He shared with us that he had an affair. He shared with us how sorry he was. He shared with us the altercation at Spier‚ and that he never laid a hand on her‚” said Holmes.
He said that Jason told them that he was “puzzled” about why Susan would have committed suicide.
“I got quite vocal and I was distraught‚” he said‚ fixing his gaze on Rohde sitting on the other side of the court.
“And I can remember this like yesterday‚ I said: 'How could you take her to the lion’s den if she’s so fragile?'" he said‚ raising his voice and still looking at Rohde.
“He said to me: ‘I’m the CEO! I’m the CEO!’ and I was like‚ ‘So?’”
Holmes said that Susan was passionate and had a temper and that she would “never give up” after finding out that Rohde had an affair‚ adding that she would want to know why he wanted to go to the conference alone.
Earlier on Monday the court finished with the cross examination of Desmond Daniels‚ the handyman who opened the locked bathroom door behind which Susan’s body was discovered. It is claimed that she used a hair iron cord to hang herself.
He was tight lipped throughout defence advocate Graeme van der Spuy’s cross examination of his affidavit. Daniels claimed that Rohde had changed the position of the cord after he left the scene.
Daniels said that Rohde asked him to get the cord off her neck as soon as they opened the bathroom door and found the body. He said that there were no knots and that the chord was easy to remove.
The case continues on Tuesday next week.