There was no care from Rohde, says judge in sentencing proceedings

Date: 21 Feb 2019

THE “overstaged” suicide hanging which saw Susan Rohde lying naked in the bathroom at the Spier Wine Estate Hotel indicated that there was no care from her husband, former property mogul Jason Rohde.

Western Cape High Court Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe, who heard closing arguments in Jason Rohde’s sentencing proceedings where he is convicted of murder and obstructing the ends of justice, said she had observed strong aggravating features from photos taken at the scene on July 24, 2016.

“There was no care. I struggled to find acknowledgement from Mr Rohde that she was his wife, the mother of his children… There was a grotesque vilification,” she said.

Susan was found with an electronic cord wrapped around her neck, hanging from a hook behind the bathroom door of the room they shared at the hotel. She died of manual strangulation or smothering.

According to the judgment, the two got into an argument after Susan discovered that Rohde had lied about ending his extramarital affair with an employee.

Rohde’s defence advocate, Graham van der Spuy, said Rohde maintained his innocence.

Judge Salie-Hlophe asked the legal counsels to argue why she should or should not exceed the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years.

Van der Spuy said his client’s depression was a mitigating factor as well as his age and economic class.

“He is used to a luxurious life, and overnight his liberties were totally and utterly removed. I have been to visit and consult with him in prison, it’s very noisy. He can’t even watch TV or sit in silence. At the age of 50 to be adrift of your ability to work,” he said.

He said a 15-year sentence would affect Rohde’s children and the business he co-owns with his mother.

Van der Spuy said he could not argue remorse, but Rohde blamed himself for his misconduct, being unfaithful, that had led to Susan’s death.

State advocate Louis van Niekerk asked the court to give Rohde an 18-to-20-year sentence for both charges. “The seriousness of the crimes, the impact on victims and interest of society outweigh the personal circumstances of the accused by far and there are no compelling circumstances that can deviate from the minimum sentence,” he said.

He added that Rohde had already indicated that he wanted to appeal his conviction, thus there was no prospect of rehabilitation.

“He brought it upon himself; the fallout is what we are seeing in the suffering of his three children. They are torn apart, they loved him. He was a good father, but this is a consequence of what he did,” said Van Niekerk.

Sentencing will be handed down on February 27.

By ZODIDI DANO zodidi.dano@inl.co.za

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