By Rob Kidd for the Otago Daily Times.
Months before a Dunedin doctor appeared in the dock charged with murder, his name began appearing on court documents.
Venod Skantha (32) will be sentenced in March next year after a jury last week found him guilty of stabbing to death Amber-Rose Rush on 2 February last year.
Friends told the Otago Daily Times last week how the doctor's behaviour deteriorated throughout 2017 as his alcohol consumption increased.
Skantha's increasingly unpredictable behaviour led him into conflict with friends who had involved him in their social circles when he was new to the city.
Those clashes played out in court before the doctor even stood trial, but suppression orders meant the details can only now be published.
The first of Skantha's friends to end up in court was Kayne Joe O'Connor, a 30-year-old who said he moved to Dunedin to get away from the Auckland drug scene.
He was originally charged with injuring the doctor with intent to injure as well as a weapons charge and one of threatening to do grievous bodily harm.
But while the court grappled with how it would have Skantha give evidence at the trial, the Crown dropped the more serious charges and O'Connor pleaded guilty only to the latter.
The pair were drinking with friends on 9 September and by the early hours of the following morning, just the two men were left with a couple of women.
O'Connor, angry about how his friend was treating the women, locked himself inside the house.
Skantha broke a glass panel to get into the property and the defendant stood over him as he tumbled over.
With Skantha on the floor, O'Connor threatened to "stomp" his head in.
He was sentenced, in August last year, to five months' imprisonment and released immediately, having spent nearly twice that in custody.
A month after the incident with O'Connor, Skantha's attitude to women again caused friction with a friend.
While drinking at a Dunedin bar on 7 October 2017, he made a series of crude comments to a 21-year-old scaffolder.
The doctor talked about fondling two women, performing a sex act on one and kissing the other.
Because of his relationship with one of the parties, the defendant stormed out of the bar, went to his home nearby and retrieved a hammer.
He walked to York Place, where Skantha's BMW was parked, and smashed its wing mirror.
A scuffle ensued but the charges that followed were eventually withdrawn by the police when the man moved away from Dunedin.
It was not only Skantha who featured in court cases before this month's trial.
The Crown's star witness, who drove the killer to and from Amber-Rose's home, and told police of seeing him emerge with the bloody knife, also had a chequered past revealed in court.
While the jury was told about the man's sex conviction and the fact he initially lied to police, no further detail was offered.
The ODT is now able to publish that the teenager, whose name remains suppressed, admitted three counts of sexual connection with a 15-year-old girl.
In June this year, the teen was sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision, while his friend, 40-year-old Rickie James McCutcheon, was jailed for two years three months on four similar charges.
A range of sex acts took place in the boy's bedroom on 4 December, 2017, the court heard.
- Sept, 2017: Kayne O'Connor threatens to stomp Venod Skantha's head in.
- Oct, 2017: A 21-year-old man takes to Skantha's BMW with a hammer in response to lewd comments.
- Dec, 2017: The Crown's star witness at trial is involved in an array of sex acts with an underage girl.
- Feb, 2018: Skantha stabs 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush to death.