Accused offered victim $20k for sex, court told

Venod Skantha.
Venod Skantha.
Weeks before a teenage girl was killed, a Dunedin doctor allegedly molested her and offered her up to $20,000 for sex.

A witness told the High Court at Dunedin this afternoon Venod Skantha's interest in 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush was “just very creepy, I guess; very weird how much he seemed to like [her]”.

The 32-year-old is on trial accused of murdering the teen on February 2 last year, as well as four counts of threatening to kill.

The Crown says just minutes before the victim's death she had threatened to go to authorities with allegations of sexual impropriety against Skantha, that he offered young girl's money for sex and supplied alcohol to minors.

Skantha brandished machete - Witness

Amber-Rose's friend, whose name was suppressed because he was under 18 at the time, told the court this afternoon he regularly socialised with her and the defendant through 2017 and early 2018.

He first noticed physical contact between the pair during a party at Skantha's South Dunedin rental.

The witness told the jury they kissed at a party.

“Amber just kind of laughed it off and moved away. That was her usual if she was uncomfortable with something,” he said.

A month before Amber-Rose died, a group of young people went to Skantha's Fairfield home to watch a movie.

The man went home leaving the victim alone with others sleeping on the couch.

They met the next day.

“She told me she'd woken up with her bra off and Vinny's hand down her pants,” the witness told the court.

Despite that, the group met up again four days later.

Again, the man left early but caught up with his friend the following day.

“She told me Vinny offered her money in return for sex . . . $2000 initially then it went up to $20,000 when she denied him,” he said.

“She told me she ended up slapping him in the face, getting herself packed up and leaving as soon as possible.”

The witness also told the court about an occasion on which Skantha had brandished a machete he had stashed under a pillow.

“[He] elaborated on how easy it would be to remove someone's head with it,” the man said.

“I just dismissed it as nothing.” 

Accused 'offered teens $400 for sex'

Another witness has said Skantha allegedly offered herself and a friend $400 to have sex with him, a court has heard.

The woman, whose name is suppressed because she was under 18 at the time, told the High Court at Dunedin today that she declined Venod Skantha's offer.

The witness told the court it came on the back of the 32-year-old defendant trying to get her to make the same request of a school friend of hers.

She also refused to do that.

A witness told the jury this afternoon she had been at a party with her boyfriend at Skantha's home in June 2017.

The next day, they were speaking about one of her schoolmates when the defendant allegedly chipped in.

“Vinny asked would she have sex with him for $400,” she said.

“He asked me to ask her and I said that I wouldn't.”

The witness said Skantha repeated the offer about 10 times and she believed it was legitimate.

“You didn't think he was just being a drunken idiot?” defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC asked.

“No,” she said.

A week later, the teenager said, she got a phone call from the defendant. 

First he asked her to dinner, then asked her to pass on the message to her friend then finally asked her if she would have sex with him for $400.

She refused all three requests.

Under cross-examination, the witness was adamant Skantha did not sound drunk at the time.

Yesterday, a woman whose name is also suppressed told the court how she met the defendant in 2017 and spent a night socialising with him and friends.

After returning from town, the witness said she went to sleep in Skantha's bed after he assured her he would sleep on the couch.

She said she woke up to find a woman on one side of her stroking her shoulder and Skantha pawing at her breast and genitals.

The defendant, she said, asked her if she wanted a threesome. 

She kicked out at him and went to sleep on the couch.

The next day, when she was getting a drink from the kitchen, Skantha allegedly approached.

''He said if I told anyone, he would kill me,'' she said.

''I was just scared.''

In cross-examination, the witness confirmed it had only been three weeks ago that she had added the allegation of the threat to her original statement about being groped.

“I was too afraid to mention it,” she said. “I thought he was going to do it.”

She also told Mr Eaton that after the threat, she accompanied Skantha to the supermarket to buy breakfast for everyone at the house.

On the way there, she allegedly confronted him about the previous evening's events.

Mr Eaton suggested that made no sense if the woman was so scared of the defendant.

“Is it possible you got yourself a little bit boozed and a little bit out of your depth . . . and you got a fright, that's all that happened,” the lawyer asked.

“All that stuff happened . . . I wouldn't make something up like that,” the witness replied.

The court also heard yesterday from a witness who said Amber-Rose had complained to her about being molested by the doctor in January 2018 – a month before her death.

“She said that she thought she may have been drugged as she woke up with Vinny's hand down her pants and her top and bra was removed,” Lyndze Parrett said.

The woman said she later raised it with Skantha and he could not remember such an incident.

The trial continues.

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