Defence witness, Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Larissa Panieri-Peter testified in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

CAPE TOWN - A forensic psychiatrist hired by murder accused Jason Rohde’s defence team on Monday told the court that Rohde’s deceased wife Susan Rohde had had major depression which significantly increased her risk of suicide.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter testified in the Western Cape High Court where Jason Rohde is standing trial after his wife Susan 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.

Panieri-Peter told the court that she had had physical and telephonic sessions with “as many people who have been involved in both Jason and Susan Rohde’s life, family members and friends, including the family psychologist and marriage counselor who had been seeing the family prior to the death of Susan Rohde.

Asked by defence advocate Graham van der Spuy asked Panieri-Peter to share with the court her conclusions, she said that with all the information that she had and her interpretation of it given her understanding of psychiatry, she would say that Susan Rohde had major depression, specifically anxious distress and mixed mood.

“And that alone increased her risk of suicide, very significantly. What she really wanted to achieve that weekend was that everyone could see that she and her husband were happy and that she would prove to herself that she won, over the mistress,” she said.

READ: #Rohde: 'No signs of suicide on scene'

Jason Rohde and his wife had a fight about his extramarital affair with a colleague, who was also at the hotel in the hours leading up to Susan Rohde’s death during a company function.

“My lady, my conclusion is that, prior to this crisis, she had a number of vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities were that she had a personality that was high energy, on the go, busy. She naturally didn’t sleep for very long and she was a person who had some insecurities. She was a perfectionist, she wanted the world to see the good side of her and family. She did not share things that were painful to her to others,” Panieri-Peter told the court.

She further told the court that Susan Rohde was socially isolated in relation to things that were painful to her and that she may have had some genetic risk factors with the development of mood disorder.

She said that “in relation with the crisis that occurred when she found out that her husband was having an affair, she had by many different accounts, a dramatic change in her demeanor and her emotions”.

She told the court that what happened that night was for the court to decide as she would not know “because I was not there”, but in psychiatric terms, and all the bits of collected information, the risk of suicide was “plenty”. 

African News Agency/ANA