'The option was divorce, not murder. With all my faults, I am not a murderer. I made a lot of mistakes but I am not a murderer.'
Cape Town – “The option was divorce, not murder. With all my faults, I am not a murderer. I made a lot of mistakes but I am not a murderer.”
These are the words of former property mogul, Jason Rohde, who is on trial for the murder of wife, Susan Rohde.
On Wednesday, Rohde pleaded his innocence at the Western Cape High Court. He told the court the only thing he was guilty of was driving his wife to her death because of his adultery.
“I have a life sentence, a complete life sentence that I can never get rid of, the shame and guilt,” he said.
Susan was found hanging by her neck by an electrical cord from a hook behind the bathroom door of the room she and her husband shared at the Spier Wine Estate, in July 2016.
It is the State’s case that Jason manually strangled her and staged the suicide.
In his testimony, Jason said he had gotten into a fight with Susan after she caught him sending a text to his mistress, a colleague, Jolene Alterskye. Susan learnt of the affair in February, but believed Jason had ended it.
“I am guilty of being an adulterer. I destroyed, in doing so, the life of my three children, Susan and many others.
“When I look at my children today, I can look at them knowing I am guilty of driving their mom to take her life. But I can also look at them knowing I didn’t kill her.
“It makes me sick to my stomach. I am so ashamed of what I did,” he told the court.
Jason said he had been unable to grieve for his wife. He said 24 to 48 hours after her death he was already fighting for himself.
“I never had the chance to grieve for her. I think about her; the other night I dreamt she was standing next to me holding my hand,” he said.
He told the court there was a woman in the court who reminded him of his deceased wife.
He earlier told his lawyer, advocate Graham Van der Spuy, that the State’s summary of facts was untrue.
Under cross examination, Jason admitted to lying to Susan, their marriage counsellor and, by extension, his children.
He said up until Susan’s death he had continued the extra-marital affair. He said while at Spier, he and Alterskye were messaging each other and had met briefly that weekend.
When asked by the court to demonstrate the position of Susan’s body and how tight the knot around her neck was, Jason struggled.
“What I meant is that tension around neck was very tight,” he told the court as he reluctantly demonstrated the positioning of Susan and the knot around her neck.
“I can tell you that when I opened the door and wedged myself through, the first thing I saw were her feet.
“She was in a crouch-like position,” he said.