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3 minute read
7 Jun 2018
4:32 pm

Rohde defence witness slams State pathologist’s methods


Forensic expert Reggie Perumal panned Dr Coetzee-Khan’s decision to make observations at the crime scene prior to the post-mortem.

Private forensic pathologist Reggie Perumal, testifying in Jason Rohde's murder trial in the Western Cape High Court, 6 June 2018. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

The defence team of murder accused Jason Rohde today maintained its stance that findings of a second autopsy conducted on Susan Rohde’s body showed the real possibility of ligature strangulation as the cause of death.

Defence forensic expert Reggie Perumal, who conducted the second autopsy at the behest of Jason Rohde, took the witness stand again in the Western Cape High Court where Rohde is standing trial after his wife Susan was found dead at the Spier Wine Estate in 2016.

Rohde is accused of strangling his wife and staging her suicide. She was found hanged with an electrical cord from a hook behind the bathroom door of the hotel room they shared.

State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan, who conducted the first autopsy, concluded that Rohde’s wife Susan died as a result of lack of oxygen after manual strangulation and smothering, a conclusion which Perumal has disputed and which has led him to accuse Dr Coetzee-Khan of making improper observations without following the proper principles of pathology.

Perumal told the court that he respected his colleagues and would not attack his juniors based on his many years of experience because that would not be fair. He, however, slammed Dr Coetzee-Khan’s decision to make observations at the crime scene prior to the post-mortem, something he said he had never experienced in his career.

According to Perumal, Dr Coetzee-Khan had overreached the standards of a practitioner when he labeled Jason Rohde a suspect and even ordered his passport to be removed from the crime scene.

“Dr Khan made observations when he arrived at the crime scene based on pallor on the nose tip and lips that the person was smothered,” the court heard.

“I cannot see that these can be objective observations that the person was smothered. I would observe by facial tissue being damaged and maybe tooth prints on the inner lips,” continued Perumal.

He said facial flap dissection to study the internal parts was not conducted in the first autopsy and organs were not physiologically evaluated.

He further told the court that when he examined the body, he found two abrasions from the actual knot on the right-hand side of the neck which could be the possible cause of death.

According to Dr Coetzee-Khan’s report at the scene, there was saliva dripping out of the left angle of the deceased’s mouth, a point which Perumal tied in with, saying that based on his experience, hanging studies and researches from world authorities “that is a sign that a ligature was applied when the person was still alive, though it may not be present at all cases depending on the mechanism of death”.

“I can say to this court that my findings are consistent to hanging, but I cannot be adamant because by doing that, I would be opening myself to more information being given to me and be told ‘please consider this’. So I cannot be adamant,” Perumal told the court.

At the behest of defence Advocate Graham van der Spuy, Perumal further listed to the court some of his findings that Dr Coetzee-Khan had missed on his initial autopsy which, according to Perumal, could be linked to the perceived inaccurate findings.

– African News Agency (ANA)

ALSO READ: Forensic expert picks holes in Susan Rohde autopsy report

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