'Like a good script for a film': Defence questions star witness

Venod Skantha. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Venod Skantha. Photo: Christine O'Connor
The Crown's key witness had too much information on the murder of a 16-year-old Dunedin girl not to be involved, defence lawyers say.

Venod Skantha (32) is on trial before the High Court at Dunedin charged with the murder of Amber-Rose Rush and four counts of threatening to kill.

The doctor is accused of stabbing Amber-Rose Rush to death as she lay in the bed of her Corstorphine home late on February 2 last year. He denies all charges.

The teenager who allegedly drove the defendant to and from the scene has spent the last two days giving evidence and is now being cross-examined by defence counsel Jonathan Eaton, QC.  He has permanent name suppression.

He immediately set out Skantha's stance.

“The defence position is that you have way too much detailed information to have simply got from Dr Skantha and the only way you could've had that much of the detail is if you were involved personally,” Mr Eaton said.

“I wasn't,” the witness replied.

“And the only reason you've been so inconsistent in the accounts you've given is because you're protecting your own position to implicate Dr Skantha.”

“No I'm not,” he said.

The teenager told police he had deliberately left blood on Skantha's shoes so they could finger him as the killer.

“It sounds like a good script for a film. A 16-year-old boy sets this trap for a 30-year-old doctor and solves the crime,” Mr Eaton said. 

Amber-Rose Rush was murdered in her Dunedin home last year. Photo :Supplied via NZ Herald
Amber-Rose Rush. Photo :Supplied via NZ Herald
“I don't know what to say to that,” the teen replied.

The witness was also grilled about his contact with media in which he had asked for money to tell his story.

He put it down to enjoying the attention.

The court also heard the teenager had sent a Facebook message to Amber-Rose's grieving mother Lisa-Ann six days after the girl's death.

“I just want to say when that scum got me to drive to your house, I had no idea what was about to happen . . . [he] pointed a knife at me and threatened to kill me and my family if I didn't drive to his house.”

The witness admitted telling friends the same story and said it was simply “exaggeration” on his part.

This morning, the witness was shown a photo of a metal-handled kitchen knife on a chopping board taken at Skantha's Fairfield home, where the pair allegedly went after the murder.

The witness confirmed he was instructed to clean the blade, though he could not recall how thoroughly he washed it.

He told the court Skantha had recently purchased the knife – the second smallest in a set of five – from Briscoes weeks earlier.

Soon after, the teen said, his friend admitted stabbing Amber-Rose.

“We don't have to worry about her anymore. I've killed her,” Skantha allegedly said.

The next night, while the pair were in Balclutha, the teenager said he got a phone call from a friend.

“It's Amber . . . she's killed herself,” the friend allegedly said.

Skantha was listening to the conversation, which was on speaker phone, and allegedly expressed his disbelief.

But the witness said the defendant contradicted that with a celebratory gesture.

He described it as “not quite a fist pump, you pull [your fist] down . . . like 'I've gotten away with something'”.

The trial continues.

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