Daughters stand by Jason Rohde, social worker tells court
Jason Rohde’s three daughters are standing by him as he faces sentencing for murdering their mother.
Social worker Rian Perry told the High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday that the trio – Katie, 20, and twins Alex and Josie, 18 – were torn between grieving for their mother, Susan, and fearing the loss of their father.
Perry, who works for the Western Cape social development department, said he had interviewed all three daughters while preparing a victim impact report.
Initially, they had been reluctant to speak to him because they distrusted the legal system, said Perry, but once they understood his role as an impartial party the interviews had gone ahead.
It emerged that the only daughter likely to give evidence on Thursday in mitigation of her father’s sentence is Katie, but prosecutor Louis van Niekerk told Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe she would apply for permission to testify in camera.
Rohde was convicted on November 8 of murdering Susan at Spier, in Stellenbosch, on July 24 2016.
Perry said Alex and Josie were brought to his office in Wynberg by their maternal grandmother, Diane Holmes, after they completed writing matric exams at Diocesan College for Girls in Grahamstown, where they were boarders.
“Alex said she was close with her mother and had a playful relationship, often teasing and joking with each other,” he said.
“Josie said she had a close-knit relationship with her mother and they used to talk on a daily basis. Josie was emotional during the interview and found it difficult to verbalise her feelings.”
Both considered Susan their “main parent” before her death, they said, and afterwards Rohde took on that role.
“Alex shared her feelings, and although she was emotional she could voice her opinion. She said their lives had been turned upside down. Their mother was the core of their family,” said Perry, adding that Alex had said she felt as if she were living in a bad dream after learning about Susan’s death.
“As they started to face the reality, their father was arrested and since then their lives and emotions had been made unstable,” said Perry.
“She believes they should have been dealing with their mother’s death, although it has been made impossible for them.”
Perry said Alex told him she often had to stop herself thinking about her mother. She had tried counselling but stopped because it was not helpful.
“She said she tried to focus on work and sport at school. She was able to maintain good academic marks,” but media reports about her mother’s death and father’s trial had “bothered” her because she felt journalists were “going after sensation”.
Josie “clearly found it difficult” to talk about the effect her mother’s death had had on her, said Perry, and she became tearful. She told them “all aspects” of her life had been affected, including her thoughts and feelings about her family.
She had not been able to deal with losing her mother, and had tried therapy but stopped when she “found no change in her problematic thinking”.
Both of them found it hard to talk about sentencing because they do not want to lose their father. They know what could happen.
“[Both girls] have remained aware of the ongoing struggle within both sides of family,” said Perry, with their maternal grandparents grieving Susan while Rohde’s parents were mainly concerned about their son.
“[The twins] do not think either side can fully support three of them or replace either of their parents,” said Perry. “Both of them found it hard to talk about sentencing because they do not want to lose their father. They know what could happen.
“The girls believe that if their father is jailed it will have a significant effect on them, and they ask the court to evaluate the consequences on the three of them.
“They see themselves as being alone and they believe they need their father. They found it difficult to accept the reality of their father’s conviction.”
Perry said Katie told him she had been reluctant to meet him. “She admitted that she felt my report was probably going to be used against her father,” he said.
“She indicated to me that she wants to assist her father.”
Rohde’s advocate, Graham van der Spuy, will call witnesses in mitigation of sentence on Thursday.