Rohde's 'frightened' daughter refuses to give evidence on her dad's behalf

06 December 2018 - 16:04 By Dave Chambers
Jason Rohde, who is being sentenced for the murder of his wife, Susan.
Jason Rohde, who is being sentenced for the murder of his wife, Susan.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

Jason Rohde’s eldest daughter, who was due to testify in mitigation of her father’s sentence for murdering her mother, changed her mind after entering the witness box on Thursday.

Now her father will remain in custody over Christmas after Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe denied a fresh request that he be granted bail so he could spend the holiday with his three children in Plettenberg Bay.

Katie Rohde, 20, had hoped to be able to testify in camera, without the media and public present.

But Salie-Hlophe ruled that the media could remain in court and that an audio of Katie’s testimony could be broadcast, but that cameras should not focus on her.

After Katie was sworn in, Rohde’s advocate, Graham van der Spuy, asked to address Salie-Hlophe, and told her that as Katie was being led into court by Rohde’s attorney, Tony Mostert, she had indicated that in light of the judge’s ruling she no longer wished to testify.

“She’s too frightened,” said Van der Spuy. “May I ask for an adjournment to get clarity and instructions.” Later, Van der Spuy confirmed that Katie would no longer testify.

Earlier, asking that her testimony be heard in camera, Van der Spuy said: “This is a major issue for a child, torn between a deceased mother and a convicted father, and in-laws on each side.”

Rohde was convicted on November 8 of murdering his wife, Susan, at Spier in Stellenbosch in July 2016. Since then he has been held at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai after unsuccessfully applying for bail.

Graham van der Spuy, Jason Rohde's defence advocate
Graham van der Spuy, Jason Rohde's defence advocate
Image: Gallo Images

Making a fresh bail application on Thursday, Van der Spuy said there was "an extraordinarily lengthy period of time" until the case would resume on February 18.

"I appreciate that he has been convicted of a serious offence ... and that in the absence of the defence being able to provide compelling circumstances that he faces a minimum  of 15 years' imprisonment. However, he has not yet been sentenced," he said.

"I do believe that his track record of cooperation and compliance ... is as close to 100% as one could possibly get in the circumstances.

"He cannot leave the country's borders. His asset base has been decimated by this case. He no longer has a house, or access to a house, in Johannesburg. The only immovable property in his name is in Plettenberg Bay, which he regards as his permanent place of residence.

"The children are at a crucial stage where they need their father following his conviction and before he gets sentenced. The children regard him as their father, as their rock, as their source of guidance."

Van der Spuy said Rohde was willing to wear a tracking device and to report to a police station daily while on bail, but prosecutor Louis van Niekerk said the judge's previous denial of bail should stand.

"There are no new facts placed before the court. The only circumstance that has changed is that there is going to be a postponement for two months," he said.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe
Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe

Salie-Hlophe said: "As regards the children, the court accepts that this is a very difficult time for them. I am, however, satisfied that they are well-loved by the extended family."

The fact that the case was not yet over was as a result of a delay sought by the defence. "As such, I do not consider that the reality that we have to postpone proceedings to February is a justifiable new fact."

Van der Spuy said on February 18 he would be calling two friends of Rohde, Craig Fleischer and Craig Livingstone, as well as Rohde's mother, Brenda Rohde, to give evidence in mitigation of sentence.