21 Nov 2019

Further claims of threats and molestation made against murder-accused

2:52 pm on 21 November 2019

Further allegations of molestation and threatening behaviour by the former Dunedin doctor on trial for murdering 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush have been detailed in the High Court this morning.

Venod Skantha

Venod Skantha Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Venod Skantha denies killing the teenager in February last year.

The first fortnight of the Crown case dealt with what the prosecution claims the 32-year-old did and how he did it.

But this week the Crown has turned its attention to the question of why.

The Crown says Mr Skantha's motive was simple; he wanted to stop Miss Rush from going to police and his bosses at the Southern DHB with claims of indecent assault, supplying alcohol to minors, and offering teens sex for money.

It was something Miss Rush threatened to do on 2 February 2018 - the day she was stabbed to death in her bed just before midnight.

The court heard earlier this week, Mr Skantha was on thin ice with the Southern DHB after showing up to work while off-duty and flushing a patient's IV line despite having drunk "two beers".

Dr Nigel Millar said Mr Skantha's employment was only saved because he lied about his mother's death.

The court this morning heard of an incident where Mr Skantha slammed a woman into a wall.

Tracey Severins said she met the 32-year-old on Tinder in September 2017.

The pair saw each other three times a week or more for several months, though she was more of a "mother figure".

He asked her to get him some drugs and gave her cash to buy them, Ms Severins said.

She said she did not source the drugs because she did not think he needed them because of the level of his drinking.

"He was always drinking. It didn't matter the time of the day," she said.

When she failed to source the drugs he responded aggressively when she was at her home, she said.

"He looked really angry, started pushing me and then slammed me against the wall," she said.

"He came right up to my face and said where's my f-ing drugs."

Her daughter intervened and Mr Skantha responded by telling one of his friends to retrieve a machete so he could slit her throat, Ms Severins said.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC raised the prospect he was only joking when he made the remark, but Ms Severins responded: "He wanted to kill people."

Her daughter, Melissa Severins, also took the stand.

After her mother met Mr Skantha, she would accompany her to his house and struck up a relationship with his flatmate.

Melissa said it was his flatmate who ultimately helped herself and her mother on the night of the attack.

"She [her mother] was pinned up against the wall," Melissa said.

"[His flatmate] pulled him off my mother and held him back and as soon as he done that we left."

Melissa detailed another incident when she was at Mr Skantha's flat.

She said a teenager fell asleep on his couch after doing drugs with her friend and Mr Skantha.

As the teen lay passed out, Mr Skantha molested her, she said.

"He put his hand under the blanket and it was her vagina and he bragged to everyone he was a doctor and knew what he was doing," Melissa said.

"Everyone could hear her moaning."

Several people witnessed the incident, she said.

Teen woke up while being assaulted by accused, court told

Earlier this week, the court heard details of similar incidents, including one such indecency against Miss Rush.

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 [Venod Skantha] hand down her pants," the witness said.

A few days later Miss Rush told him 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".

Miss Rush also outlined the incident to another friend, Lyndze Parrett, and said she had cut off contact with Mr Skantha as a result.

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.

She kicked out 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.

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 witness.

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 witness denied the offer.

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