Family 'relieved' at news of Skantha's death

Venod  Skantha lost an appeal yesterday. Photo: Christine O'Conner
Venod Skantha lost an appeal yesterday. Photo: Christine O'Conner
The family of Dunedin teenager Amber-Rose Rush say they are relieved that her murderer, Venod Skantha, has died in a South Otago jail.

Skantha's appeal against conviction for the 2018 murder of the 16-year-old and threatening to kill four other people was dismissed by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: supplied
Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: supplied
A Dunedin jury in 2019 unanimously found the former doctor guilty of stabbing Amber-Rose to death. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years.

In a statement supplied to the Otago Daily Times last night, prison director Lyndal Miles said Corrections staff unsuccessfully tried to save a man who died at the Otago Corrections Facility, near Milton, yesterday.

Emergency services attended the incident about 4pm.

There was no indication his death was suspicious, she said.

'GLAD IT'S OVER'

Amber-Rose's father, Shane Rush, said it had been a hard, sad, and emotional road for the family, one that felt like it would go on forever.

Now the family felt like they could finally grieve, he said.

''It is hard to accept that her killer won’t have to pay the price for his crimes but it is a relief to the family not to have to spend more of our lives being tortured with appeals and parole hearings.

''I do feel he has paid some of it with his own life and for me it’s a sign of guilt and remorse.

''We feel sorry for his parents as they have now also lost a child and no parent should ever have to go down that road.''  

Brendon MacNee, the partner of Lisa Rush and stepfather of Amber-Rose, said today he is relieved by the news of Skantha's death, The New Zealand Herald reported.

"I am relieved it is over, we don't have to wait for the court of appeal and we don't have to go to the parole hearings," Mr MacNee said.

The family's heartache of losing Amber-Rose in 2018 was compounded when her mother Lisa Rush died suddenly four months later, and MacNee said that Skantha's death "won't bring back Lisa or Amber-Rose".

On hearing news of Skantha's death, MacNee said he wasn't surprised.

"I am glad it's over and we can finally - not forget our loved ones - but move on."

Brendon MacNee with Lisa Rush. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald
Brendon MacNee with Lisa Rush. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald

CORRECTIONS 'NOT AWARE APPEAL DISMISSED'

A former Corrections officer told the Otago Daily Times today he believed that processes at the prison had not been followed.

The man, who had been speaking to current Otago Corrections Facility staff, said an interview was supposed to take place with prisoners when they received bad news, such as an appeal being thrown out.

A series of questions would be asked to determine how much of a risk to themselves the inmate was. But that supposedly did not happen for Skantha yesterday, he said.

However, Corrections says it was not aware Skantha's murder conviction appeal had been dismissed.

In a statement today, Otago Corrections Facility prison director Lyndal Miles confirmed that Skantha died at the prison yesterday afternoon.

Skantha was advised of the court’s decision in relation to his appeal in a telephone call from a representative of his legal counsel yesterday afternoon, she said.

''Conversations between prisoners and their legal advisers are privileged and Corrections was not aware of the decision.

''The Court does not routinely inform Corrections of decisions that do not have an impact on the length of a prisoner’s sentence.''

When staff were made aware of information that has the potential to impact a prisoner’s wellbeing, their policy was to carry out an assessment of the person’s risk.

That included a range of specific circumstances, in any other circumstance where the person displayed a change in behaviour or mood, or when information was received by staff that caused concern for their safety.

''Our thoughts are with the man’s family and friends. Other men in the unit and staff are being provided with support.''

All deaths in custody are referred to the Coroner for investigation and determination of cause of death.

An investigation by the independent Corrections Inspectorate will also be carried out.

Where to get help 

Suicide/depression related

• Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• Depression healthline: 0800 611 116
• Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666
• Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797
• General mental health inquiries: 0800 44 33 66
• The Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757

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