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Wife-killer Jason Rohde’s sentence slashed

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Staff Reporter

Convicted wife killer Jason Thomas Rohde has had his 20-year sentence for killing his wife reduced by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to 15 years after it was found the trial court erred by departing from the prescribed jail term.

The SCA however dismissed his appeal against conviction and he is now expected to present himself to prison authorities to start serving his sentence.

Rohde was convicted on November 8, 2018 by the Western Cape High Court on two counts, namely, the murder of his wife, Susan Francis Rohde, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

The second count, according to the SCA ruling, was based on an allegation that subsequent to the murder of his wife, the appellant rearranged the scene of the crime in an attempt to give an impression that the deceased had committed suicide.

On February 27, 2019, Rohde was sentenced to an effective term of 20 years’ imprisonment.

This included 18 years for the murder and five years for trying to defeat the ends of justice.

However, three years for the second count were ordered to run concurrently with the murder sentence.

The trial court refused Rohde’s application for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence but the SCA subsequently granted him an audience.

The matter dates back to July 22-24, 2016 when the company led by Rohde, a well-known real estate company, held its annual conference at the Spier Hotel near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

Rohde, as the chief executive officer of the company, attended the conference.

His wife accompanied him to the venue and attended the social events associated with the conference.

However, on the morning of July 24, his wife was found dead in the bathroom of their suite at the hotel.

The issue at the heart of the appeal, according to the SCA, was whether the deceased died as a result of smothering and/or manual strangulation, as the respondent alleged, or whether she committed suicide by hanging herself from a hook affixed to the inside of the bathroom door with the use of the cord of an electric hair curler, as claimed by the appellant.

The central question before the SCA was whether the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased had been killed by the appellant, or whether there was a reasonable possibility that she might have committed suicide.

The SCA found that the state had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased was killed by manual strangulation and that only thereafter the ligature was applied to her neck.

Thus the trial court correctly convicted the appellant on both counts.

However, the SCA found that the trial court erred in finding that the deceased had been smothered.

There were three reasons why this finding could not stand.

The first was that the trial court made a material factual error.

The pillowcase that it examined had been found on the right-hand side of the bed where the deceased slept.

Secondly, the far-reaching observations of the trial court in respect of the photograph of the pillowcase were not put to any witnesses or to the appellant and could by no means be said to be clear.

“The trial court’s reliance on its own observations was thus wholly unjustified.”

In the third place, the aforesaid evaluation of the expert evidence demonstrated that external airway obstruction was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The SCA found further that it must regrettably be said that save for the findings that the appellant strangled the deceased and attempted to stage her suicide, the court a quo’s ‘vivid picture’ constituted speculation in respect of both content and sequence.

It said there was no evidence for the finding that the appellant had punched the deceased with his ring bearing fist or that it was reasonably possible to conclude the deceased was not smothered and that the right rib fractures were caused by attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The SCA found that these matters impacted on the question of an appropriate sentence.

The SCA held that the appellant must be sentenced for the first count on the basis that he unlawfully and intentionally killed his wife by manual strangulation, but did not assault her in any other way.

The appeal court also found that after due consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances, no substantial and compelling circumstances justified a departure from the prescribed sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment for the count of murder.

It said the sentence of three years’ imprisonment was appropriate in respect of the second count and should run concurrently with the first one.

The adjusted sentences will be deemed to have been imposed on February 27, 2019.

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail

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THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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Six nabbed for alleged theft of network batteries

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NABBED . . .  The six men believed to have stolen network batteries and damaged critical infrastructure

 Six men were due to appear in the Marquard Magistrates Court on Friday after being found in possession of eight network batteries believed to have been stolen.

Police spokesperson for the eastern Free State, Warrant Officer Mmako Mophiring, said the suspects were arrested following a joint effort by members of the SA Police Service, private security and farmers.

He said police received information from the community at about 3am last Wednesday saying some unknown men were digging up network boxes and cutting copper inside a manhole.

“The police activated and mobilised other members and arrested the first suspect who is a foreign national near a filling station while sitting inside a vehicle,” said Mophiring.

The man was arrested for possession of suspected stolen property after eight network power box batteries were found in his possession and failed to properly account for them.

While pursuing the matter with the help of some farmers, the police received information at about 8am that some five men were trying to hitch-hike near a certain farm to Senekal.

“The team quickly responded and arrested the three suspects who were successfully linked to the initially arrested suspect. Two other suspects managed to escape but were chased and arrested near a farm going to Senekal. Four of the six suspects are Illegal immigrants and two are South Africans,” he explained.

The six are aged between 23 and 30 years of age.

They are facing charges of contravening the Immigration Act, possession of suspected stolen property and damage of infrastructure.

Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane applauded the community and the team for the prompt arrests and urged them to “continue working together to fight crime”.

Meanwhile, three suspected armed robbers were sniffed out of their hideout in Thaba Nchu near Serwalo on Thursday morning following a petrol station robbery.

Police spokesperson in Mangaung, Sergeant Mahlomola Kareli, said in a separate statement four armed robbers arrived at the petrol garage just after midnight on Wednesday and threatened the security guard with a firearm before tying him up with wire and fleeing the scene with a undisclosed amount of cash and cans of motor vehicle oil.

The suspects demanded keys from the guard and gained access to the back offices.

And while others were busy helping themselves to the oil cans and cigarettes, others were busy grinding the safe to access the money inside.

The four then left the security guard with his hands and feet tightly fastened with a wire.

The guard was only rescued by staff starting duty at 5am.

The matter was reported to the police and a case of armed robbery was opened at Thaba Nchu Police Station and a manhunt was launched.

Luck ran out for three of the suspects aged between 38 and 40 after they were traced and found near Serwalo in Thaba Nchu at about 2am on Thursday and were arrested.

They were found with an undisclosed amount of money suspected to have been stolen during the robbery.

One suspect remains at large.

The three were due to appear in the Thaba Nchu Magistrates Court on Friday for business robbery. – Staff Reporter

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Garden scissor attacker nabbed

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THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

A 64-year-old man has been arrested after stabbing one person in the stomach with a broken garden scissor and injuring the victim’s family while holding them hostage.

Police say they were called to a place in Verkeerdevlei on Wednesday evening where a person had been stabbed in the stomach.

Upon arrival, they found a 53-year-old man who had been stabbed in the stomach with the broken scissor.

The suspect had already fled the scene.

“The victim was taken to hospital for medical treatment,” said Captain Stephen Thakeng in a brief statement.

Further investigations revealed that the same suspect went to the house of the victim’s 36-year-old daughter house where he held her and her two children – aged 13 and 15 – hostage.

“Tactical Response Team (TRT) members from Park Road were activated at about 21:30 and it was realised that the suspect was holding (the family) hostage in a three-roomed shack,” said Thakeng.

“The TRT members gained entry into the shack and rescued the three from the suspect.

“The three victims were also stabbed with the same half part of the big scissor.”

The suspect is facing a charge of attempted murder and three counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He will appear in the Verkeerdevlei Magistrates Court soon.

THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

Meanwhile, a man believed to be terrorising tuckshop owners around Bothaville was arrested on Wednesday following a tip-off by community members.

Police say they received information about a man with a firearm and who might be involved in robberies of tuck shops of foreign nationals at about 16:30.

The suspect’s house in Kgotsong was identified and members of Bothaville Crime Prevention approached it and asked for permission to search the place.

They were granted permission and a 9mm pistol was found and a 27-year-old man from Potchefstroom was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

The suspect will appear in the Bothaville Magistrates Court soon. – Staff Reporter

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