- Silent Suicide?
One of the biggest hurdles Graham van der Spuy has to overcome, is one of the most obvious. If Susan Rohde committed suicide while her husband Jason was sleeping, she had to have done so virtually without making a sound.
It’s easy to forget that hotel rooms basically include just two rooms, the bedroom and the bathroom. So if Susan was dying on the other side of the door, with her husband lying literally 2 metres away, she had to have committed suicide silently, or quietly enough so she didn’t wake him.
The forensic evidence indicates Susan’s death involved unbearable pain. Even her tongue was bruised. The blood that poured into her lungs and stomach didn’t drain there without a world of accompanying hurt. What’s more, Susan coughed up and swallowed a lot of blood. Just in those descriptors – coughing and swallowing – we have clear indicators for physical noises. Spluttering sounds. Gagging. What’s more, where is the blood spatter from coughing up that blood?
If Jason Rohde is to be believed, his wife slung herself on the other side of the bathroom door, and took meticulous care not to make a noise, as if she was trying not to wake him – either as she set up the hair iron, or with her own body as she suspended herself, or with the closing and locking of the door. This care and consideration was supposedly for a man who was cheating on her and about to divorce her. It doesn’t make sense.
- Weight tolerance yes – but not of the door hook
There’s been a lot of chatter about the load-bearing capacity of the door hooks. According to the head of the forensic engineering science lab at SAPS, Daniel Poolman, the electrical cord would have broken with any load heavier than 40kg. Susan weighed 52kg.
My understanding is that this means:
a) where the cord enters the bottom of the hair iron, there is an area of weakness, and it’s in this area that the cord would give way
b) Beyond a particular threshold, a loosely threaded hair iron would be dislodged from the rickety mooring that the hook itself presented, in terms of anchoring the hair iron
Personally I don’t like the weight threshold debate, because for almost every argument, there’s a counterargument. If one is arguing weight, the counterargument is that Susan wasn’t exerting her full weight on the cord. On the other hand, the force had to be sufficient to asphyxiate her.
It’s reasonable, however, to doubt that Jason’s version of hanging is even practically demonstrable or possible.
- The Significance of the Penguin Message
On July 23rd, the day before Susan’s death, Jason Rohde sent a number of compromising messages to his 37-year-old mistress, Jolene Alterskye.
At 10:02 he wrote: “This weekend made me realise just how much I don’t want to be with Sue anymore. All I can think of is you. I want to scream with frustration. I don’t want anything more in my life than to be with you.”
At 10:47.36 Jason wrote: “I absolutely hate it, I just want it to end.”
At 10:49 he said: “Having you close is driving me crazy. Sue is driving me nuts! She follows me around like a f*** shadow.”
At 22:02, hours before a huge row with his wife, and hours before her death, Alterskye wrote: “You my penguin forever.”
What is the likelihood that Susan Rohde discovered the “penguin forever” message? That’s not just a throwaway term of endearment, it’s got a permanence to it. These messages also indicate to what extent Jason, Susan and Jolene were all caught up “in the heat of the moment”.
The fundamental psychology we get from Jason at this point is:
All I can think of is you. I want to scream with frustration. I don’t want anything more in my life than to be with you.
Breaking it down:
think, want, want. scream with frustration.
And breaking it down even further:
want. scream with frustration.
- The Newcombe Hypothesis
In spite of Dr Peter’s testimony and assessment, Susan’s psychologist Jane Newcombe didn’t experience Susan as suicidal but rather primarily anxious. Susan was more anxious than depressed. That’s a subtle but important distinction to make.
Anxiety is about fear. Fear is a paralysing, passive response. Although Susan’s husband has been adamant that Susan was angry and confrontational, she was also anxious for much, if not most of the time. Checking phones, worrying, writing in her diary, struggling to sleep, these are all the silent struggles of an anxious mind.
Compare that to Jason:
I want to scream with frustration
Susan’s primary feeling is anxiety. Jason’s is frustration. Which lends itself more directly to anger? Anger is an activating response, one that in the heat of the moment can lead to murder. Anger, under these circumstances is less likely to devolve into suicide. Jason Rohde’s story is that Susan was extremely angry. That’s true, but so was he. Anger plays better into the psychology of murder, which is precisely why the “going to sleep” and the “silent suicide” narrative is a mismatch to the anger scenario. Anxious people are silent, angry people are not.
- “I can’t fight for three hours…I just don’t have the strength”
When Jason says he doesn’t have the strength to fight for three hours, I don’t think he means physical strength. He’s done the half Ironman, a race that takes the average individual 7 hours, and if you’re in very good shape, about 5 hours. Moreover, to do a race like that, one has to be fairly technically minded. There are transition areas, one must carry food and water with you, spare tubes in case of a puncture and so on. Even loading a triathlon bicycle onto the back of a car, or packing it for air travel, and unpacking it, requires a fair amount of technical knowledge. There are clip in shoes, and many gears to shift. Just the gear shifting suggests an appreciating for how things fit together and turn…
I also think Jason Rohde gives away quite a lot when he says he doesn’t [or didn’t] have the strength to fight with Susan for hours, meaning, he’d had enough of the physical and mental contest with her. He was done. He wanted the contest to be over. The strength he’s referring to, that he doesn’t have, is the patience and fortitude to endure his screaming frustration. What he does have, instead of that desire to spar, is a bristling anger to dispose of what is in his way.
I absolutely hate it, I just want it to end.
What do you think “it” means?