The former African head of the property group Sotheby’s International Realty told the court that his wife of 23 years, Susan, discovered that he had not been faithful in February 2016, when she found a Valentine’s Day card in his overnight bag on his return from a work trip to Cape Town.
Rohde testified that his spouse became obsessed after learning of his affair with a colleague. He says this resulted in constant marital conflict.
Rohde told the court his wife was devastated when she learned of the affair and wanted to know every detail. He claims to have stopped the affair in an attempt to save their marriage but admits to rekindling it a few months later.
The accused claims that his infidelity caused her to hang herself. “She couldn’t believe what I had done to her,” he said.
Rohde and his defense will need to prove that his wife committed suicide by hanging herself with a hair iron cord, a difficult task since the state, who believes he murdered her, have as evidence a strong post-mortem report that suggests she was strangled rather than hanged.
Severe bruising also seemed incompatible with the defence’s story of suicide. Also, the post-mortem suggested that she swallowed large quantities of blood in her last hours alive, caused by blunt force trauma on the right side of her chest.
In an effort to counter this evidence, Rohde’s defence team led by senior advocate Graham van der Spuy has meticulously combed through the post-mortem report in search of any inconsistencies and has attacked both state pathologists present at the post-mortem examination.
Susan was found by Rohde in their Spier hotel bathroom with a hair ironing chord loose around her neck and around a towel hook behind the bathroom door. The state is also accusing Rohde of obstructing the administration of justice.
Rohde, who had to pay R100 000 bail and provide a R1 million surety guarantee, was allowed to return home to Johannesburg at the end of August 2016.
The trial resumes tomorrow.