When thumbs suck

The Ro­hdes’ chill­ing What­sApp war­fare

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ARON HY­MAN and DAVE CHAM­BERS

Con­tempt, love, para­noia, re­gret, pro­fan­ity and money: they’re all there in screeds of re­veal­ing What­sApp mes­sages that Ja­son and Su­san Ro­hde ex­changed in the months be­fore he is al­leged to have killed her.

About 3 000 mes­sages be­tween the then 47-year-old par­ents of three teenage girls were handed in as ev­i­dence this week at Ro­hde’s mur­der trial in the High Court in Cape Town.

They paint a pic­ture of a woman over­whelmed by sus­pi­cion af­ter her hus­band’s af­fair with a col­league, and of a hus­band al­ter­nately ap­peas­ing and re­sent­ing his wife’s con­stant need for re­as­sur­ance.

The 79 pages of mes­sages end abruptly at 7.43pm on Satur­day July 23 2016, af­ter a row be­tween the cou­ple in which Su­san told Ro­hde: “F**k you.” The last words Ro­hde texted to his wife were: “Get ur f**king call block off.”

Early next morn­ing, the prop­erty com­pany boss asked ho­tel staff at the Spier wine es­tate in Stel­len­bosch to help him open the bath­room door in the cou­ple’s room.

Su­san was dead in­side, and a month later Ro­hde was ar­rested. The state says he stran­gled her, but Ro­hde claims she com­mit­ted sui­cide by hang­ing her­self us­ing the cord of a hair iron.

Ro­hde’s trial be­gan on Oc­to­ber 9 with an in­spec­tion of Spier by Judge Gayaat SalieHlophe.

This week, Su­san’s psy­chol­o­gist, Jane New­combe, told the court that her anal­y­sis of the cou­ple’s What­sApp mes­sages sug­gested Su­san slipped into a state sim­i­lar to post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der when she dis­cov­ered Ro­hde had been hav­ing an af­fair with Cape Town es­tate agent Jo­lene Al­ter­skye, who was at­tend­ing the same com­pany con­fer­ence at Spier as the Ro­hdes.

Al­ter­skye fea­tures promi­nently in the cou­ple’s What­sApp ex­changes. Two weeks af­ter learn­ing of the af­fair, Su­san said “I hope you and she rot in hell to­gether”, adding that he “prob­a­bly started f**king her” on their el­dest daugh­ter’s birth­day.

On April 21, she told her hus­band, who was in Cape Town: “I’m sick of that witch con­trol­ling my life. You let that bitch into my life and I’m tak­ing her out. You two ass­holes think you can con­trol what I do, what I know, while you carry on like f**king twits when­ever you want to.”

By July 19, a few days be­fore her death, Su­san ap­peared to have ac­cepted the af­fair was over. “Thanks for pick­ing us over the whore,” she said. “And thanks for cut­ting her out com­pletely. I so ap­pre­ci­ate you never speak­ing to her again. I knew that you could turn your life around and you’ve shown me that you can.”

CON­TEMPT

In March 2016, Ro­hde told Su­san: “We have noth­ing in com­mon.” She replied: “Thanks dick­head.” In mid-April, Su­san said: “I hate you more than I have ever hated any­one in my life . . . You f**k me over ev­ery day of your life . . . You live to de­stroy me.”

A month later, she What­sApped: “When will you ever con­trol your tem­per? There are al­ways go­ing to be things you don’t like for the rest of our lives. I will not be screamed at and sworn at.”

LOVE

A month af­ter Su­san learnt of Ro­hde’s af­fair, the cou­ple be­gan ex­chang­ing fond mes­sages. “I do love you, please hon­our the com­mit­ments you have made,” said Su­san. “I love you too my baby,” Ro­hde replied. On April 19, Ro­hde told Su­san: “Thank you for lov­ing me so much. I re­alised how much you loved me this week­end.” She replied: “You need to start lov­ing your­self so you can be happy.” Five weeks later, Su­san said “I re­ally need you now. My heart is racing”, and on June 8 she texted: “I lit­er­ally just want to be in your arms right now.” Three weeks be­fore her death, the cou­ple had an af­fec­tion­ate ex­change. Su­san: “Hey Ro­hde.” Ro­hde: “U also Ro­hde.” Su­san: “Just a bet­ter ver­sion of you.” Ro­hde: “True.” Su­san: “Up­graded top-ofthe-range Ro­hde.” Ro­hde: “Very true ac­tu­ally.”

PARA­NOIA

Su­san mon­i­tored Ro­hde’s What­sApp pro­file to see when he was on­line. In April 2016 she asked him: “Why are you on your What­sApp? My chest is about to ex­plode.”

Later in the month, af­ter ping­ing him six times, Su­san sent three mes­sages in five min­utes: “Where the f*** are you?” “An­swer.” “I hate you.”

Af­ter 93 mes­sages in less than two days, Ro­hde told Su­san: “I will no longer be sub­ject to your con­stant bad­ger­ing.”

A month be­fore her death, Su­san told her hus­band: “As you know I am very in­se­cure when you are away and I would ap­pre­ci­ate it if you didn’t leave your What­sApp on.”

On July 6, Ro­hde texted: “U don’t stop call­ing me!!! It’s driv­ing me in­sane Sue!!!”

RE­GRET

Af­ter Su­san found out about Ro­hde’s af­fair with Al­ter­skye at the end of Fe­bru­ary 2016, he told her: “I am sick and a liar. I’m not dis­put­ing that Sue.”

In April, Su­san What­sApped: “You thought you were such a big deal, run­ning your two lives. Man up now and take bloody re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Ro­hde replied: “I un­der­stand what you say and I agree.”

PRO­FAN­ITY

Ar­gu­ing last April about a prop­erty the cou­ple had re­cently bought in Plet­ten­berg Bay, Su­san told Ro­hde: “You want to keep Plett but I must see where you f**ked her ev­ery day.”

On June 24, believ­ing Ro­hde was with Al­ter­skye, Su­san told him: “I’m fly­ing to Cape Town to see if she’s there. I know that c**t is there.”

MONEY

In Jan­uary 2016, Su­san told Ro­hde: “A prop­erty has come up in Con­stan­tia on the culde-sac we like. They want R8.5-mil­lion but I’m sure we could get [it] for R7.1-mil­lion.”

In April, af­ter Su­san re­minded him that school fees were due, Ro­hde replied: “I just paid 40K.”

Shortly af­ter­wards, the cou­ple were dis­cussing spend­ing R50 000 on a ho­tel in an Aus­trian ski­ing re­sort, and a day later Su­san told Ro­hde a school was nag­ging her for R21 000.

Then she asked him to pay a R17 000 de­posit for res­i­dence ac­com­mo­da­tion at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity.

On July 14, the cou­ple re­ceived a cash of­fer of R8-mil­lion for their Jo­han­nes­burg home, which was on the mar­ket for R10.3mil­lion. Su­san said she’d told the agent “no thanks”.

Ro­hde replied: “Good, tell her to get lost.”

Pic­ture: David Har­ri­son

Mur­der ac­cused Ja­son Ro­hde, left, and his wife, Su­san, whom he is al­leged to have stran­gled while they were at­tend­ing a com­pany con­fer­ence.

Ja­son and Su­san Ro­hde

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