Rohde, the former Lew Geffen Sotheby’s boss, spent his first night in jail after the court found that he had staged a suicide in the bathroom of their room at the luxury hotel at Spier Wine Estate.
In convicting him of murder and defeating the ends of justice, Western Cape High Court Judge Gayaat Salie- Hlophe said Rohde misled the court as his version that his wife committed suicide was “not possibly reasonably true”.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said it welcomed the conviction and would request life imprisonment.
Judge Salie-Hlophe said the court believed the State proved its case beyond reasonable and that Rohde had direct intent to kill his wife.
She said Spier “set the final scene of a love triangle which had formed some months before” after Susan found a Valentine’s Day card in Rohde’s suitcase left by his mistress Jolene Alterskye.
“The emotional hallmarks of infidelity entwined themselves like creeping ivy into the lives of those affected: betrayal, suspicion, passion, sex, frustration, anxiety, anger and humiliation took its inevitable shape,” said Judge Salie-Hlophe.
She said Rohde was not a credible witness when he took the stand.
“I have an issue with the accused’s version. There are various features which are puzzling to which he could give no reasonable explanation. The accused was belligerent and he adapted and struggled with his narrative.”
The conviction came on the same day that Rohde’s twin children started their Grade 12 final exams.
An emotional Rohde kept shaking his head in disbelief as Judge Salie- Hlophe relayed her interpretation of events that led up to Susan’s murder.
Referring to a facial imprint of Susan found on a pillow on the bed the couple shared and where “a wrestling match” played out, Judge Salie-Hlophe said: “The deceased did not only leave a facial imprint. She left a trail that told a story in her absence.”
According to Rohde, he found his wife dead on the bathroom floor after she hanged herself on the bathroom door but a post-mortem found that foul play may have been involved.
It was the State’s case that Susan was killed by manual strangulation, possibly including violence by means unknown.
Judge Salie-Hlophe said Rohde tried to cover his tracks and “testimony as to the events of the fateful morning is interspersed with inherent improbabilities, and seen within the factual matrix of the matter, falls to be rejected as not being reasonably possibly true”.
She said instead of contacting emergency services when he realised his wife might be in danger, Rohde contacted hotel reception to send maintenance, saying the bathroom door was locked and he could not access it.
“He stayed hidden in the hotel room and waited for the handyman to arrive. He quarantined the scene and wanted the handyman to be his alibi,” she said.
“His version of events on the morning of his wife’s death came across as scripted, he showed difficulty in answering questions beyond the facts to which he testified in chief, could not answer questions crucial to the events of that moment, and contradicted himself in a number of ways.”
In his plea explanation, Rohde admitted to an extramarital affair with Cape Town-based colleague Alterskye.
While testifying Rohde said he “was an adulterer but not a murderer”.
The matter was postponed to November 21 for sentencing.