16 October 2017

South Africa: Rohde Murder Trial - State Questions Impartiality of Defence Pathologist's Report

A post-mortem report, completed at the request of murder accused Jason Rohde a week after his wife's death, omitted key evidence which could cast doubt over its "impartiality", the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

Rohde is accused of murdering his wife, Susan, at the Spier Wine Estate last year.

State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan determined that Susan had died from a lack of oxygen, following manual strangulation and smothering.

Rohde requested an independent post-mortem from Dr Reggie Perumal.

However, in court on Monday, Coetzee-Khan testified about several concerns he had with Perumal's report.

These included that:

- Perumal overlooked injuries to Susan's neck which, in his view, are important to determine that she was strangled by hand;

- Perumal did not request photographs of Susan's body before completing the post-mortem and making dissections;

- Perumal overlooked injuries on Susan's left hand, as well as blood present in her stomach and intestines.

Coetzee-Khan pointed out that it was nearly impossible to restore neck tissue to its original form after a post-mortem.

"How could Perumal complete a post-mortem on the neck if he doesn't know in what condition the tissue was in before dissection," he asked.

Possible confrontation

He said he was "really concerned about the findings of Perumal's report" and the impartiality of the findings made.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe asked Coetzee-Khan whether Rohde's version of events, that a confrontation occurred before Susan's death, corresponded with her injuries.

However, he responded that he was not provided with the specifics of the confrontation to "map out" which injuries occurred from the altercation.

He said Susan's injuries to her knuckles and scarring to her legs could have been caused in a confrontation.

However, the injuries to her neck were still not explained, he added.

Coetzee-Khan told the court that the bruising to Susan's eye was consistent with direct contact, which could have been caused by Rohde hitting her with the back of his arm.

Coetzee-Khan has not yet been cross-examined.

Judge Salie-Hlophe postponed the matter to Wednesday afternoon at the request of Rohde's counsel, Pete Mihalik.

Dressed in a dark blue suit, Rohde appeared relaxed throughout the court proceedings.

Source: News24

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