South African couple Jason and Susan Rohde had an enviable life.
Their wealth meant they were used to having everything they wanted, from luxury holidays to their sprawling home with a pool.
Jason, 47, was a CEO of a high-end real estate business and lived a privileged life with his wife Susan.
The couple had been married for 22 years and had an 18-year-old daughter as well as twin girls, aged 16.
They all lived together in the lavish home in an exclusive part of Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Susan, 47, was dedicated to supporting her millionaire property mogul husband.
The former teacher loved interior design and poured everything she had into creating a beautiful home for her family and entertaining her husband’s high-profile friends.
Susan strived for perfection in everything she did, from her matching colour schemes to the way she dressed, and prided herself on always being there for her friends and family.
Still, despite having it all, Jason’s eye had wandered.
It was 2016 and he was having an affair with a co-worker.
Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alterskye, 37, was a glamorous single mum and they had been seeing each other for several months.
In the February, Susan’s world fell apart when she discovered a Valentine’s card written to Jason and signed by Jolene.
His infidelity had been exposed.
Jason insisted he’d end it with his lover, and Susan wanted to save their marriage, so they agreed to work it out.
For Susan, failure wasn’t an option, especially when it came to her family.
She put on a brave face to the world, but behind closed doors, the couple were arguing and the wounds refused to heal.
In the July, Jason had a work conference at the Spier Hotel in the famous wine region of Stellenbosch.
Susan insisted on going with him.
She might have just wanted to spend time with her husband and fight for her marriage – or she might have wanted to keep an eye on him.
Susan was sure the affair wasn’t over… and she was right.
Jolene was at the conference, and Jason was messaging her every opportunity he could.
“This weekend made me realise just how much I don’t want to be with Sue any more”, he wrote to Jolene.
“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.”
Jason said having Jolene so close was driving him ‘crazy’ and that his wife was following him around ‘like a shadow’.
Susan caught Jason messaging Jolene and they got into a huge row over the fact the affair wasn’t over.
Jason ended up telling Susan their marriage was finished and he wanted a divorce.
The next morning, on 24 July, just after 8am, Jason called down to reception to say their bathroom door was locked and he needed help opening it.
They sent up a handyman called Desmond Daniels to assist.
When he managed to open the door, he was horrified to find the dead body of Susan.
She was hanging from an electrical cord that was looped around a hook on the back of the bathroom door.
Desmond went to get help and soon the room was swarming with police.
A distraught Jason said that after the couple had argued, they’d both fallen asleep.
When he woke up, Susan was still angry so he’d gone back to sleep.
The next time he awoke, the door was locked and Susan had gone.
Staff comforted Jason.
It seemed that the betrayal of her husband’s affair and the threat of their marriage ending had pushed Susan too far.
Had she taken her life, unable to imagine a future without Jason?
Those close to Susan were in total disbelief.
For them, it was inconceivable she would take her own life.
Susan fought problems head-on and didn’t give up on those she loved.
She was devoted to her three girls and would never have left them. No note was found, and according to a therapist she saw regularly, Susan wasn’t depressed.
There were other puzzling aspects.
When the handyman had first discovered Susan, she was naked.
But when more staff arrived, she was wearing an inside-out dressing gown.
Desmond also noted that the position of the electrical cord had changed when he returned.
It looked like there had been a struggle on the bed, and the ligature marks around her neck weren’t consistent with a hanging.
And how had she done it without a chair to create enough of a drop?
There were no footprints on the edge of the bath…
As Susan’s family mourned, they arranged a funeral brimming with her favourite pink roses, but there were so many unanswered questions.
A very proud Susan was unlikely to have killed herself while naked, knowing she would be discovered that way.
And why did she still have make-up on if she’d slept that night?
Susan always removed her make-up before bed.
Then the autopsy revealed something shocking.
Susan’s death was consistent with manual strangulation and asphyxiation.
Susan had been murdered.
There were no signs of a break-in, and by now Jason’s affair was common knowledge.
He was now the prime suspect.
Within days he was arrested and officials determined what they thought had happened.
After a struggle, Jason had strangled his wife with his bare hands, then smothered her with a pillow.
He dragged her body to the bathroom, wrapped a cord around her neck before trying to suspend her from the hook on the back of the door – but her body was too heavy.
He set up the scene to look like a suicide, then somehow locked the bathroom door.
Jason would have had plenty of time to stop and save his wife but he carried on regardless.
The only call he made was to a get a handyman to back up his story and ‘discover’ his wife.
Jason denied it all, but he was arrested and the scandal hit the press.
At the trial in 2018, the court heard the horrifying details of Susan’s murder.
Jason took the stand and said that although his affair was ‘selfish’, he hadn’t killed Susan.
But the prosecution argued that he’d killed her to ‘shut her up’, and the judge agreed.
In the November, Jason was found guilty.
Selling his story
Four months later, he was sentenced.
Jason’s lawyers insisted that a wealthy person like him would suffer far worse in prison.
It was a comment the judge said was ‘preposterous’ and that everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law.
Susan’s mum Diane Holmes, 73, provided a victim impact statement.
She said of her daughter: “She was so much more than that to so many people who loved her wholeheartedly, and were loved wholeheartedly in return.”
The judge said one love trumped all others for Jason – the love he had for himself.
Getting what he wanted came at a cost to those around him.
Jason, now 50, was sentenced to 18 years for the murder charge and five years for staging the suicide – three of which will run concurrently, so Jason will effectively serve 20 years in prison.
The judge said the case was ‘extreme and shocking’.
“Susan died a painful and gruesome death”, she added.
“She did not die instantly… She suffered in the last moments of her life, eventually succumbing to her death.”
She said the degree of violence used was horrifying and noted that Jason had then staged the scene to sell the story of her suicide – just as he’d staged homes to sell throughout his career.
“Gleaning from the crime scene photos and other evidence, you used your wife’s body as a showhouse to sell the concept that she had taken her own life”, she said.
Jason showed no emotion as he was handcuffed and led to the cells and continues to maintain his innocence.
His lawyers have launched an appeal.
Jason believed he was going to get away with murder when he killed his wife, and even now he believes he’s above the law.