14 Apr 2021

Convicted murderer Venod Skantha who killed Amber-Rose Rush has appeal dismissed

5:04 pm on 14 April 2021

The former Dunedin doctor who murdered Dunedin teenager Amber-Rose Rush has had his appeal dismissed.

Amber-Rose Rush.

Amber-Rose Rush was stabbed to death in February 2018. Photo: Supplied

Venod Skantha sought to have the Court of Appeal quash his conviction and sentence.

The 33-year-old maintained his innocence and claimed there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Skantha was sentenced tolife imprisonment with a 19 year non-parole period in March last year.

The trial heard he stabbed 16-year-old Rush to death in her bed in February 2018 to silence her.

The Crown case was he killed her to stop her from coming forward with career-ending claims he was showing up to work drunk, plying minors with alcohol, molesting teenagers and young women and offering money for sex.

Venod Skantha

Convicted murderer Venod Skantha has had his appeal dismissed. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

The defence laid the blame on his teenage friend, the prosecution's key witness.

His lawyer Jonathan Eaton told the Court of Appeal there were issues with the evidence during the trial and it could not be sure of Skantha's guilt.

Eaton argued the trial judge erred by refusing to treat the teenage friend as an accomplice and warn the jury his evidence might be unreliable for that reason.

He also submitted some propensity evidence of Skantha molesting other young women should have been inadmissible, and that there was reasonable doubt of Rush's own account of indecent assault.

He raised other matters including the judge's refusal to admit hearsay evidence of the prosecution's key witness entering Rush's bedroom at night.

"Counsel urged rather that the trial was unfair. Alternatively, errors at trial created a real risk that the outcome was affected and this Court cannot be sure of Mr Skantha's guilt," the Court of Appeal said.

However, it ruled against Skantha and found no material errors.

"Mr Eaton mounted a wide-ranging and thorough challenge to the conduct of the trial and the summing-up, but we are not persuaded that there were any material errors," its decision said.

"Those we have identified were not sufficiently serious, even in combination, to create a real risk of a different outcome. It is not necessary that we form our own view of Mr Skantha's guilt but we have done so; we are satisfied that the evidence proved his guilt beyond reasonable doubt."

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