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Susan Rohde brutally beaten an hour before her death‚ says pathologist

Dr Khan Image: State expert witness Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan takes the stand in the murder trial of Jason Rohde. Picture: Anthony Molyneaux
Dr Khan Image: State expert witness Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan takes the stand in the murder trial of Jason Rohde. Picture: Anthony Molyneaux

Susan Rohde swallowed at least 100ml of her own blood after she was brutally beaten up to an hour before she died‚ the High Court in Cape Town was told on Thursday.

And forensic pathologist Dr Akmal Khan said a horizontal ligature mark around Susan’s neck was made after her death by someone trying to stage her suicide.

Susan’s multi-millionaire husband‚ Jason Rohde‚ is on trial for her murder‚ which he denies. He claims Susan hanged herself with an electric cord in the bathroom of their hotel suite at the Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch in July 2016.

 Khan showed the court images taken from her autopsy showing cracked ribs and various haemorrhages‚ including some to her lungs‚ from blunt force trauma which could have included punching and kicking.

He said Susan could have coughed up blood from the bleeding in her lungs‚ and it ended up in her stomach and small intestine.

It appeared from bruising on her knuckles and her wrist that she tried to defend herself from an attack before she was murdered‚ he said.

Earlier‚ he pointed out that older bruises on her body — including a large one on her upper right thigh which was about seven days old — led him to conclude she had “battered woman syndrome”.

The true cause of death was manual strangulation‚ he said.

Referring to the ligature mark caused by an electrical cable‚ Khan said: “The mark was applied after death so it’s a staging of a hanging. The person is already dead so now somebody tries to imprint the [mark from the electrical cable]. Because they don’t know how it is supposed to look‚ they get it wrong.”

Photographs which Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlope ruled were too gruesome to publish also depicted Susan’s blackened left eye with a haemorrhage near her eyebrow which Khan said was consistent with blunt force trauma from a fist. He said the haemorrhaging was caused by a ring on one of the assailant’s fingers.

 In a pre-emptive attack on Dr Reggie Perumal‚ a pathologist hired by the defence to conduct a second autopsy‚ Khan said that if he did not come to the conclusion that a broken hyoid bone in the neck and haemorrhages near the thyroid bone were the cause of death he would be misleading the court.

The case continues on Monday‚ when Khan is expected to end his testimony. Defence advocate Graham van der Spuy said he needed a week to prepare for Khan’s cross-examination.

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