11 Nov 2019

Amber-Rose Rush murder trial: Crown's star witness tells of bloody knife and phone

2:03 pm on 11 November 2019

The man accused of murdering Amber-Rose Rush snuck into her house on the night of her death and later emerged with her cellphone which was covered in blood, the Crown's star witness says.

Amber-Rose Rush.

Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Supplied

The 32-year-old former doctor, Venod Skantha, is on trial in the High Court in Dunedin for murdering 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush in February last year.

The jury has this morning heard evidence from the Crown's star witness, an 18-year-old with name suppression.

The Crown case is Mr Skantha stabbed Miss Rush to death to stop her coming forward with claims he was "touching up" minors without their consent, supplying them alcohol and offering money for sex.

The Crown says Mr Skantha, who worked as a junior doctor in Dunedin Hospital's emergency department at the time, was on a last warning with the Southern DHB and the claims would have been career-ending.

After the 18-year-old witness took the stand, the jury was played a video interview of him by the police.

Members of Miss Rush's family sat in the public gallery as the tape played.

In it the teenager spoke about Mr Skantha retelling Miss Rush's death in excrutiating detail.

The witness told police after alerting Mr Skantha to a social media post by Miss Rush, in which she called the accused names late on 2 February, Mr Skantha then called him.

Mr Skantha told him he was coming to pick him up, he said.

He drove Mr Skantha to Miss Rush's house at his request.

Mr Skantha told the 18-year-old: "I've got a masterplan".

"I was like 'Right, he's had too many wines' because he does like his liquor, [he] definitely had drunken that night," the teenager told police.

"We drove up to the address of Amber's. He told me to park around the corner and said 'I'll be back in a minute'."

The teenager admitted he told Mr Skantha where to find the spare key to get into Miss Rush's home.

Once Mr Skantha was inside, the teenager put on Dean Martin and called a friend.

When Mr Skantha emerged, he attempted to break Miss Rush's phone before the pair drove to Blackhead Quarry, where Mr Skantha threw it into a bush, the teenager said.

"When he got back he said 'Open the door' and then he said 'Can you put my belt on please. Don't let me touch it'.

"I got the belt on and he said 'Drive'. I looked down and I could see him holding Amber's phone. The whole phone was covered in blood. I saw a knife clear as day, he put that - it was covered in blood - in the side pocket."

It was only later that night at Mr Skantha's address in Fairfield that he finally told the teenager what happened, he said.

"I said 'Venod what's happened?' and he said 'I killed her', like she's gone."

The teenager told police: "He cut her throat and she went to scream and he cut her vocal chords."

Mr Skantha stripped off and put his bloodied clothes into a bag, the pair then lined the boot of his car with cardboard boxes and drove to Mr Skantha's ex-girlfriend's house in Balclutha, the teenager said to police.

While in Balclutha the following night, the witness said he received a phone call from a friend "saying 'Amber's passed away, she's killed herself'. Vinny was relieved".

They returned to Dunedin with Mr Skantha's ex-girlfriend the next day - 4 February, 2018 - and went to see Miss Rush's mother.

"I sat there thinking 'I'm in the room with her daughter's murderer, what the f*** am I doing'."

"He was trying to draw attention away from him," the teenager recalled of the meeting between Mr Skantha and Miss Rush's mother.

The teenager came forward to police later that day.