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The Rohdes’ chilling WhatsApp warfare
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!!!”
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.”
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.”
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.”