20 Nov 2019

Teen woke up while being assaulted by accused, court told

5:46 pm on 20 November 2019

The former Dunedin doctor accused of murdering Amber-Rose Rush threatened another teenager after indecently assaulting her, the High Court has heard.

Venod Skantha

Venod Skantha Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Venod Skantha denies killing the 16-year-old in February last year.

The Crown case is that it was to stop Miss Rush coming forward with claims of indecent assault, supplying minors with alcohol and offering sex for money.

Today the jury heard evidence about these claims.

A friend of Miss Rush, who has name suppression, said he was with Miss Rush at Mr Skantha's home early in January 2018.

A group of friends were watching a movie at Mr Skantha's house, the witness said.

As he and his partner left he noticed Miss Rush, Mr Skantha and another male asleep on the couch, he said.

The next day Miss Rush spoke to him about what happened.

"She had told me she had woken up with her bra off and Vinny's hand down her pants," the witness said.

A few days later Miss Rush told the witness about Mr Skantha offering money for sex on another occasion she was at his house.

"Initially it was $2000 and then it went up to $20,000 when she denied him," the witness said.

"She told me she ended up slapping him in the face and getting herself picked up and leaving as soon as possible."

The witness described Mr Skantha's level of affection for Miss Rush as "creepy".

Another witness told the court she had a similar experience with Mr Skantha after a night out in 2017.

She awoke to find she was only in her bra and underwear, and Mr Skantha was fondling her breasts and genitals.

An older woman was also in the bed touching her.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC questioned the witness about how she reacted to the situation.

"I didn't say anything to her because I was in so much shock [with] what was going on," she told the lawyer.

"And the first thing you hear being said by Vinny is talk of threesome?" Mr Eaton asked.

"Yeah, he asked me 'Do you want to have a threesome?'," she responded.

"And you said you didn't?"

"I said 'I'm not keen'."

"And then you got up and left?"


She kicked out at Mr Skantha when she awoke to him touching her, she said.

In the morning Mr Skantha threatened to kill her if she told anyone, she told the court.

She remembered the threat very clearly, she said.

Mr Eaton questioned why she did not raise it with the police when she spoke to officers in February last year.

"I was too scared to tell the police what happened with that threat," she said.

"Because if he could act on it. That's why I didn't want to tell the police. I was too afraid to mention it."

Another witness said Mr Skantha asked her to talk to a friend about the prospect of having sex with him.

"Vinny asked 'Would she have sex with him for $400'. He asked me to ask her and I said that I wouldn't."

Mr Skantha was persistent and asked about 10 times, the witness said.

About a week later, he rang the teenager.

He had obtained her phone number after her former boyfriend used Mr Skantha's phone to call her, the witness said.

Mr Skantha again asked her to approach her friend with the offer of money for sex.

"I said no. I wasn't putting my friend in that position. Then he asked if I would have sex with him for $400."

The teenager denied the offer.

The trial continues tomorrow.