18 Nov 2019

Amber-Rose Rush murder trial: Doctor offered victim's mum hug, place to stay

1:07 pm on 18 November 2019

Former Dunedin doctor Venod Skantha did not appear upset at all when meeting with the mother of Amber-Rose Rush, the girl he is accused of murdering, a court has been told.

Venod Skantha

Venod Skantha Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

The trial of 32-year-old former doctor Venod Skantha at the High Court in Dunedin has this morning heard from Detective Constable Amy Stewart.

Ms Stewart told the court she was present at a meeting on 4 February between Miss Rush's mother Lisa Rush, Mr Skantha and a key prosecution witness.

The detective said Mr Skantha greeted Miss Rush's mother with a hug.

During the meeting Mr Skantha suggested Lisa Rush's partner Brendon MacNee might have been responsible for the teenager's death, she said.

"Vinny [Venod Skantha] said that he initially thought Brendon and he asked Lisa if Brendon was out.

"He then asked about the guy that had broken Amber's arm and he asked 'If he was capable of that?'. Lisa replied to him 'Who is capable of that?'."

The court earlier heard an ex-boyfriend Miss Rush had been violent and broken her teenager's arm. The couple were separated for some time before her death and she had moved on.

The detective said Mr Skantha "didn't show any tears or appear upset at all" during the meeting.

He offered to do anything he could to help, including offering Lisa Rush a place to stay, Ms Stewart said.

Lisa Rush was "visibly upset and said she'd never see her baby again", Ms Stewart said.

She later died of a suspected suicide.

The Crown case is that Mr Skantha, who denies killing Amber-Rose Rush in February last year, stabbed her to death to prevent her coming forward with claims he was "touching up" minors, supplying them alcohol and offering money for sex.

The Crown said he was on a final warning with his employer, the Southern DHB, and a terse message exchange with her on social media late on 2 February 2018, he drove with a teenage friend to Miss Rush's house.

The Crown argues the teenager drew instructions to Miss Rush's bedroom and told Mr Skantha where to find a spare key, that Mr Skantha then entered Miss Rush's bedroom, smothered her with pillows and stabbed her to death.

He is also accused of threatening to kill four others in an attempt to cover up the crime.

The defence said it accepted an intruder murdered Miss Rush late on 2 February, but claims the intruder was the teenage friend of Mr Skantha, not the then-junior doctor at Dunedin Hospital.

The trial, before Justice Nation and a jury of 10 men and two women, continues.