CAPE TOWN - Defence forensic expert Reggie Perumal, hired by murder accused Jason Rohde, on Wednesday disputed the findings of State pathologist Dr Akmal Coetzee-Khan that Rohde’s wife Susan died as a result of lack of oxygen after manual strangulation and smothering.
Perumal took the witness stand on Wednesday in the Western Cape High Court where Rohde is standing trial after his wife was found dead at the Spier Wine Estate in 2016.
Rohde is accused of strangling his wife and staging her suicide. She was found hanged with an electrical cord from a hook behind the bathroom door of the hotel room they shared.
On Wednesday, Perumal -- who conducted a second autopsy at the behest of Jason Rohde -- testified that a number of points from the first autopsy which was conducted by the State were inaccurate, and also pointed out that there were errors in the calculations made at the crime scene to determine the time of death.
Perumal said that one of the basic fundamentals of a forensic pathology student is to determine the exact time of death.
Now when a student does not understand the principles, it’s a very, very sad state," he told the court.
"Challenges in forensic pathology is making proper observations,” said Perumal, responding to defence Advocate Graham van der Spuy who asked him to comment on perceived miscalculations at the crime scene.
Van der Spuy told the court that he was seeking Perumal’s comments on the apparent miscalculations of time of death as this could play a “significant role” as to whether Jason Rohde was guilty or not.
The defence has argued that Susan Rohde hanged herself after a fight over Jason Rohde’s mistress Jolene Alterskye who was also at the hotel on the night of Susan’s death.
Van der Spuy further asked Perumal when conducting the second autopsy, if he had found any injuries which were “inconsistent” with Rohde’s version of events.
“You have heard, seen or read about Rohde’s version,” asked Van der Spuy.
“Yes, correct my lady.”
“Now is there any injury that you have found in your post-mortem that is inconsistent with Rodhe’s version,” Van der Spuy continued.
Perumal responded: “No, I had not found any injuries that were inconsistent with Mr Rohde’s version.”
He testified to the court that some injuries that he had found were common skeletal injuries in hanging.
The court further heard that most body parts had not been taken into consideration in the first post-mortem, an instance which could be associated with the first findings which Perumal did not find when conducting the second autopsy.
According to Van der Spuy, Dr Deidre Abrahams, the Western Cape government’s chief of forensic pathology who observed Dr Coetzee-Khan when he conducted the first autopsy, alleged that Susan’s right lung was severely injured after suffering an attack from her husband, and that there was blood in her stomach that she (Abrahams) assumed that was from the lung and was swallowed into the intestines.
Perumal had disputed that, according to his opinion, the blood was from a nose injury and it was going down nostrils and was swallowed down into the stomach.
He told the court that there was less than 200 ml of blood in the body and that one had to also identify the source of blood found in the stomach when an autopsy is conducted.
Perumal had stood by his stance that most of the body parts were not taken into consideration in the first autopsy.
The matter resumes on Thursday.
African News Agency/ANA