Name-dropper! Character assassin! Insults fly at Jason Rohde trial

20 June 2018 - 13:24
By Philani Nombembe
Dr Reggie Perumal appeared in the stand at the Cape Town High Court as the defense’s forensic pathologist during the murder case of Susan Rohde.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux/TimesLIVE Dr Reggie Perumal appeared in the stand at the Cape Town High Court as the defense’s forensic pathologist during the murder case of Susan Rohde.

Prosecutor Louis van Niekerk sought to poke holes in forensic pathologist Dr Reggie Perumal’s elaborate CV by digging up judgments in which his opinion was rejected or not considered.

The latest involved the Henri van Breda triple axe-murder case‚ in which Perumal’s expertise was sought by the defence.

In his CV‚ Perumal also states that he was hired by the family of former Zimbabwean vice-president Joice Mujuru in 2012 to assist it during an inquest into the death of her husband Solomon‚ a former army general‚ in a fire. At the time‚ Mujuru claimed her “liberation struggle icon” husband was murdered.

Another high-profile trial Perumal listed involved Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia‚ who died at the hands of police officers in 2013. He was dragged behind a police van in Daveyton‚ Gauteng.

Van Niekerk asked Perumal if Judge Siraj Desai‚ in the Van Breda trial‚ accepted his six-page comment for the defence. The expert said it was accepted‚ according his understanding.

But Van Niekerk referred him to Desai’s 300-page judgment and said: “I want to differ with that.” Van Niekerk undertook to provide Perumal with the voluminous judgment before cross-examining him after an objection from Rohde’s counsel‚ Graham van der Spuy.

Van der Spuy said it would be unfair to question Perumal on a document he had not yet read. “I haven’t had sight of this judgment. I have a problem with the witness being cross-examined when I haven’t had sight of [it]‚” said Van der Spuy.

Then Van Niekerk crossed the border. He questioned Perumal about his role in the Mujuru inquest and highlighted that his role was minimal and he did not testify.

“I am putting it to you‚ Dr Perumal‚ that it was not necessary to mention [all this]. It is quite interesting. [But] it’s name-dropping‚ nothing can be said about your report because it was not adjudicated on.”

Perumal conceded that his report was not tested. He said he had suggested a second autopsy but that was never taken up.

Van Niekerk continued: “In a similar fashion‚ you made mention of your involvement in the Mozambican Mido Macia [matter]. Again you did not testify in that matter. You were tasked by Ipid [Independent Police Investigative Directorate] to become involved.

“The point is as I understand it‚ you were made available by the state to the defence but the defence did not call you.”

Van der Spuy objected. “I don’t know if this is some form of character assassination‚” he said. “I am not sure what the state is trying. He [Van Niekerk] is given carte blanche by [this court to assassinate] this man’s character.”

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe allowed the cross examination to continue.

Rohde is accused of killing his wife‚ Susan. The couple had three daughters and had been married for more than 20 years at the time of her death. Rohde is the former CEO of Lew Geffen/Sotheby’s International Realty.

The state is convinced that he killed his wife at a company conference at Spier‚ near Stellenbosch‚ in July 2016. She was found dead with the cord of a hair iron around her neck behind a locked bathroom door.

The post-mortem examinations have taken centre stage in the trial. Based on its post-mortem report‚ the state alleges Rohde beat Susan up and dealt debilitating blows to her left chest‚ causing several rib fractures‚ before smothering her with a pillow and faking her suicidal hanging.

Susan insisted on attending the event as she was suspicious of Rohde after finding out five months earlier that he was having an affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alerskye.