27 Nov 2019

Before and after the death of Amber-Rose Rush

7:17 pm on 27 November 2019

Dunedin teenager Amber-Rose Rush was stabbed to death in her bed in February last year. Almost 22 months on, a jury has convicted her one-time friend Venod Skantha of her murder.

Amber-Rose Rush.

Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Supplied

On 3 February 2018, Amber-Rose Rush failed to show up to work at New World Centre City in central Dunedin.

Her mother, Lisa Rush, went to wake her daughter and found her face down in a pool of blood, her head covered by pillows.

Almost two years on and after a three-week-long trial, Venod Skantha has been convicted of her murder.

The pair met through a mutual friend at a party at Skantha's flat in mid-2017 - a teenage boy who would later become the prosecution's key witness.

Venod Skantha

Venod Skantha Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Within months the pair were regularly spending time together, there was even talk on Miss Rush and her best friend moving into Skantha's home.

Miss Rush's friend described Skantha's level of interest in the 16-year-old as "creepy".

But in January 2018 the pair fell out.

Miss Rush told friends she awoke, after falling asleep on Skantha's couch, to find his hand down her pants, and her bra and top removed.

The court has heard evidence over the past three weeks that casts doubt on whether the incident occurred, but all agree, including the defence, that Skantha made an offer of money to Miss Rush to have sex with her.

"Initially it was $2000 and then it went up to $20,000 when she denied him," Miss Rush's friend told the court.

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

It marked the end of their involvement until Skantha messaged the 16-year-old on 2 February after a purchase was made using his credit card on Wish.com.

He had left his wallet in her boyfriend's car and suspected she had made the purchase.

She denied being responsible but told him he deserved much worse considering what he did.

He told her not to be a drama queen, stop spreading rumours about him and that he always bought her stuff.

"Stuff doesn't mean s**t when you did that to me, wasnt talking s**t hun you should own up to what you did, fkn perv," she responded.

"You're lucky i dont go into the hospital and tell them how you turn up to work drunk, and supply minors with alcohol, touch them up without consent, grow up vinny you're 30 for f**k sakes," she went on.

She later posted screengrabs of their conversations on Instagram.

That prompted a mutual friend of the pair - the prosecution's key witness - to alert Skantha to the posts and the allegations in their contents.

It reignited their message exchange and Miss Rush indicated to Skantha she was going to go to the police and his bosses at the Southern DHB with her claims.

"So you serious?" he asked her.

"Best believe I am. I'm doing the world a favour people like you don't deserve to walk freely," Miss Rush responded.

Her last message to Skantha read: "You know what you were doing when you did it. For that you deserve everything you're gonna get".

About 30 minutes later Miss Rush was killed.

Skantha drove his silver BMW from his home in Duxford Crescent, in the Dunedin suburb of Fairfield, to The Glen and picked up his teenage friend.

He told the boy to drive.

CCTV footage from the area showed his car going towards The Glen at 11.39pm and driving back past again at 11.45pm.

The teenager pulled over on the way to Miss Rush's home and drew directions to her room on the car's dashboard.

The teenager told Skantha a spare key was located under a Buddha statue outside the home's front door.

He entered the teenager's room and stabbed her several times in the head.

The fatal blow was 11 centimetres long and about five to six centimetres deep at its deepest point.

Miss Rush's cellphone was also taken.

Cleaning up

The teenager then drove Skantha to Blackhead Quarry to dispose of the phone and back to his Duxford Crescent home to clean up the car.

They then drove on to the home of Skantha's former girlfriend, Brigid Clinton, in Balclutha.

She was expecting him earlier in the evening to sign some legal documents but told him not to come after he was late.

Skantha and his friend arrived at about 2.30am and he explained the odd timing as having fallen asleep after work.

The following day Skantha suggested the group have a bonfire to toast marshmallows. He used the fire to burn his bloodied clothes and Miss Rush's driver's licence and phone case.

On 4 February, Skantha, his teenage friend and Ms Clinton returned to Dunedin.

They went to meet Miss Rush's mother Lisa Rush at the motel where she was staying.

On the way to the meeting, Skantha stopped at the New World where Miss Rush has worked to buy flowers and a card for Lisa Rush.

At the meeting, Skantha questioned whether the death was suicide and, when told it was not, he offered possible suspects including the partner of Lisa Rush.

After the meeting, Skantha and Ms Clinton dropped off Skantha's teenage friend.

The teenager then called the police, leading to Skantha's arrest and the police investigation.