Amber-Rose trial: Accused 'hugged mum, suggested suspects'

Vernod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Vernod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Christine O'Connor

A doctor accused of murdering a Dunedin teenager hugged the victim's mother and listed possible suspects during a visit a day after her body was found, a jury has been told.
Venod Skantha (32) denies a charge of murder and four counts of threatening to kill following the death of 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush at her home in February 2018.

At the High Court in Dunedin this morning, Detective Constable Amy Stewart gave evidence that she was at a motel room with the victim's mother, Lisa-Ann Rush, when Skantha arrived.

The meeting took place on February 4, the day after Ms Rush found her daughter's body in her bed at their Corstorphine home.

Skantha was joined by his ex-girlfriend and a teen friend, who has been a key witness in the case.

Lisa Ann Rush (left) with daughter Amber-Rose. Photo: supplied
Lisa Ann Rush (left) with daughter Amber-Rose. Photo: supplied
The accused gave Ms Rush flowers and a card, told her he was "so sorry'' about Amber-Rose's death, and hugged her, Det Const Stewart said.

Det Const Stewart was introduced to the trio as a friend of Ms Rush's, and was also hugged by Skantha.

Skantha was wearing black jandals, black board shorts and a green army-coloured hoodie at the time.

The court was told Skantha asked Ms Rush what had happened to Amber-Rose.

She told him she had found Amber, there was blood, and that a key had been used to access the house.

Skantha asked about the key and where it was, but Ms Rush did not disclose that, Det Const Stewart said.

The court was told Skantha then began to suggest possible suspects. They included Amber's step-father and an ex-boyfriend who had broken the girl's arm.

He asked if the ex-boyfriend would be capable of killing her.

"Who would be capable of that?'' Ms Rush replied.

Ms Rush was "visibly upset'' during the meeting, saying she would never see "her baby'' again, Det Const Stewart recalled.

She told the court Skantha did not appear upset during the visit, but he was "jiggling his leg'' while sitting down talking to Ms Rush.

Police were tailing Skantha at the time of the motel visit, but Det Const Stewart said she was unaware of that at the time. She did, however, know he was a person of interest.

She recalled Skantha saying he had last seen Amber-Rose two months ago, but had been texting her about his wallet.

He was in Balclutha with his ex-girlfriend when he heard about Amber-Rose's death, he told Ms Rush.

The trial continues.


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