Mother of murder victim Susan Rohde, Diane Holmes, 73, revealed this in a heart-rending victim impact report handed up during Jason Rohde’s ongoing high court sentencing.
She relates how the day passed in a confusing maelstrom of comforting her distraught granddaughters while fielding calls to family and visits from a few of Susan’s friends and the children’s headmistress.
“I have little detailed recollection of those hours,” she says. “Jason arrived back that night and flopped on to the girls’ bed in a foetal position, his eyes closed, moaning, but said very little. His mother and the girls tried to comfort him.
“By the next day there was a continuous stream of shocked friends visiting the home to commiserate with the family. I pulled myself together and began planning Susan’s funeral. I was determined that it would be the best tribute we could give her.
“A few days later, Jason was called to Cape Town by the police and there was a sense of real concern and mild panic. Rumours abounded of an affair.
“On his return, he called a family meeting He wanted to explain, and swore on his children’s lives, while he may have killed Susan emotionally, he did not kill her with his hands.
“As a family we were shocked at the revelations of his affair and the fact that he was under suspicion.”
The funeral was a fitting and loving send-off to her daughter, says Holmes. “But it is a great sadness to me that Jason and the girls left so soon after the service. They did not get to share in the warmth and the support of those who were there and missed the symbolic releasing of pink and white balloons, which was so very Susan. We were saddened and hurt, too that in spite of telling Jason of the private cremation service, he chose not to come.”
Penning her victim impact statement was extraordinarily difficult, she said. “Much more so than I would ever have believed. I am trying to understand why it is so difficult. I think I see it as part letter to Susan, part examination of how I am feeling and dealing with circumstances that we find ourselves in, and part giving Susan a voice in a process, that has, for me, relegated her to something of an object or exhibit in someone else’s show.
“She was so much more than that to so many people who loved her wholeheartedly and were loved wholeheartedly in return. It has brought to the surface for me so many emotions, so many heartaches, so many issues that I have buried ever since Susan’s death”
Holmes laments the heavy price she has paid as a mourning mother whose grief took a back seat to her granddaughters’ needs and their father’s trial. “During the trial, we had demands from the defence to release the funds from Susan’s estate as they were rightfully Jason’s and he needed them to fund his defence. Undue pressure was put on us, and we believe on the girls, who accused me (a trustee) of being spiteful and not helping their dad.
“Even now, having flown to them with their sister the day after the judgment, we feel that same alienation as if we are in some way responsible for the predicament their father finds himself in and are not doing enough to help him. We will always love the girls, more than they know. We will support them and do whatever we can to get them through these awful days, but I do need them, at some point, to respect our loss and our heartache and how impossible this has been for us.”
Last month, Rohde was found guilty of the 2016 murder of his wife Susan at Spier Wine Estate. He will spend Christmas in Pollsmoor following the postponement of this week’s sentencing proceedings which will resume on February 18, next year.