24 Nov 2020

Former doctor continues to fight against murder conviction over teen's death

6:54 pm on 24 November 2020

A former Dunedin doctor found guilty of killing teenager Amber-Rose Rush continues to deny he was the murderer.

Amber-Rose Rush.

Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Supplied

Venod Skantha was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years in March.

However, he has taken a case to the Court of Appeal against his conviction and sentence.

A jury last year found Skantha guilty of stabbing the 16-year-old in her bed in February 2018.

Rush and Skantha had a heated social media message exchange in the lead up to her death.

She had threatened to come forward to complain about claims of sexual assault, providing minors with alcohol and offering money for sex.

His job as junior doctor at Dunedin Hospital was already on thin ice.

He had managed to keep his job after showing up off-duty after drinking in 2017 - when he treated a patient - flushing the woman's IV line.

He only saved his employment by lying about the death of his mother.

Skantha's legal team, led by Jonathan Eaton QC, continues to argue the death was caused by the Crown's key witness - a friend of Skantha's - who has name suppression.

Eaton told the court that witness was unreliable.

"In his evidence, he described himself as a compulsive liar - there were endless inconsistencies, lies, what he would call exaggeration or adding flavour," he said.

He said Skantha had picked up the witness - a mutual teenage friend - and asked him for directions to Rush's bedroom - using a spare key hidden under a statue.

Former doctor Venod Skantha at his sentencing today.

Former doctor Venod Skantha at his sentencing earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Eaton said the witness knew specific details about the case.

"Police refused to ever treat him as possibly a suspect, the Crown refused to treat him as a suspect," he said.

Crown prosecutor Robin Bates said Skantha was the murderer.

"He not only had the knife on him, but he had dark clothing on, had gloves on, and that was evidenced by the smear marks on the house and there was a more than reasonable inference given what was going to happen - that the person who was inflicting the wounds would need to wear old clothes," he said.

He said the Crown relied on circumstantial evidence, along with evidence from the witness.

Bates said Skantha knew what he was doing.

"The wound which was essentially one deep cut which severed two important blood vessels and the wind pipe - the person who did that had some knowledge of what was required to both immediately silence Amber Rush and kill her quickly."

The three Court of Appeal judges have reserved their decision and it will be published at a later date.

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