Both murder accused Jason Rohde and maintenance man Desmond Daniels saw Susan Rohde‘s dead body in the bathroom of the Spier hotel room the morning she was found. But one contends that she was naked, and the other insists she was dressed in a gown.
In the Western Cape High Court on Monday, Rohde maintained that his wife had not been nude when her corpse was found suspended from a hook behind the hotel bathroom door in July 2016.
“I need to be clear: Susan was not naked. She was wearing a gown,” the adamant businessman testified.
Although her death was thought to be a suicide, her husband was later charged for her murder and accused of staging her suicide.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Rohde claimed he was the first person who entered the bathroom – not Daniels – and said any person wouldn‘t open a bathroom door when common sense prevailed that someone else was inside.
Daniels had testified that initially, he could only see Susan‘s legs. But Rohde disagreed and said the Spier employee had been behind him when he went into the bathroom. The first thing he saw was his wife‘s feet pointing toward the basin.
He conceded that he could not testify about what Daniels had seen.
“I am telling you what I did. I opened the door. Mr Daniels didn‘t.”
Daniels had testified that he was the one who had opened the door and that there had not been any resistance. He claimed “it was easy” to open.
Rohde, however, alleged he had to wedge himself through a gap to gain access to the bathroom.
Prosecutor Louis Van Niekerk put it to Rohde that he called out to Daniels to help him, and the handyman had seen Susan naked.
Rohde said this was “incorrect”.
He had asked Daniels to help him remove the cord around Susan‘s neck, which the handyman said had not been tight despite Rohde‘s claims that it had been.
The State said, if it had been tight, this would have resulted in bruising, which was not evident from post-mortem photos.
Van Niekerk pointed out that he surely then would have noticed if she had been wearing a gown.
Rohde then began speaking about the direction the body was facing, and Van Niekerk asked why Rohde was being sidetracked and not answering his question.
He told the accused his version was “all a lie. You have to recall what you said previously.”
Susan‘s gown was brought into court in an evidence bag but was not used. It is understood that this is because it was stained with blood.
On the morning of her death, Rohde claimed he woke up and Susan was sitting upright in the bed, dressed in the Spier gown.
It was the last time he saw her alive, he testified, insisting that he would have recalled if Susan had been “standing stark naked”.
The State insists that Rohde had “put [his] wife behind the door” and had placed the cord around her neck, allegations that Rohde said were “absolutely untrue”.
Van Niekerk put it to Rohde that it was easy to open the bathroom door from the outside, but the accused wasn‘t willing to concede this.
“I don‘t accept that at all. It didn‘t cross my mind that you could use a teaspoon or something to open the bathroom door. I have never done it myself.”
The trial resumes on Tuesday.