The whereabouts of Susan Rohde’s handbag, which apparently contained the diary she kept after her husband, Jason, started having an affair in 2016, are unknown, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday
During Jason’s murder trial, defence lawyer Graham van der Spuy mentioned they had been looking for the bag, its contents and her vanity case for a long time.
“She had a diary she kept in her handbag. We were told no diary was found,” Van der Spuy told investigating officer Sergeant Marlon Appollis during cross-examination.
During his evidence-in-chief on Tuesday, Appollis said that he did not find a diary when looking through the room for a note or anything pointing to a suicide.
The Rohdes were attending a conference at the Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch when Susan was found hanging from a hook behind the hotel bathroom door.
Not guilty plea
Although her death was initially 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.
Appollis said earlier in the week that he had handed over a pink suitcase found on scene with clothing inside, after Jason’s attorney had requested it.
Van der Spuy said on Thursday that the pink suitcase actually belonged to his client and that his wife’s handbag and vanity case were still missing.
He said the handbag contained items including a wallet with credit cards, perfume, lipstick and a small, soft-skin leather diary with an elastic band.
Appollis was adamant that it was not found or handed in by himself or his colleagues.
‘No one imagined he would be murdered’
He said police normally kept an inventory of items that were removed from a crime scene and returned any items to the family if they were not necessary for the investigation.
According to Appollis, Jason’s attorney, Noorudien Hassan, had asked him for Susan’s belongings and promised he would testify in court that he had received them from the police.
“No one imagined he would be murdered before then.”
Van der Spuy expressed his doubts.
He said there were court appearances in the few months between his client’s arrest and Hassan’s murder in which the attorney could have said something.
Van der Spuy said it confused him that there was no written statement to say police had handed over items to Hassan, he said.
Hassan surely would have handed over any belongings he received to the current legal team, he said.
Van der Spuy could also not fathom why Appollis testified that a diary was not found in a handbag when there was supposedly never any sign of her handbag in the first place.
“As I said, if there was any diary, it would have been confiscated,” Appollis replied.
He was excused from the stand and the State closed its case.
Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe granted the defence’s request for a postponement until 28 May so it could prepare its case.