No signs of a struggle, forensic expert tells jury

Vermod Skantha. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Vermod Skantha. Photo: Christine O'Connor

  • Spatter on the inside of the passenger-side window of Skantha's BMW
  • A transfer stain on the inside of the passenger door
  • Flecks inside a white plastic bag in which Skantha allegedly put his clothes
  • A droplet on the top of defendant's right shoe
  • A patch by the heel of the left shoe

A scientist who examined the bedroom where a Dunedin teenager was stabbed to death says there were no obvious signs of a struggle.

Amber-Rose Rush (16) suffered six wounds to her neck in the bedroom of her Corstorphine home and was found by her mother the following morning on February 3 last year.

ESR forensic scientist Rosalyn Rough said she would have expected to see blood spatter around the room if there had been a violent struggle but there was no such evidence. 

The man who allegedly inflicted those wound was junior doctor 32-year-old Venod Skantha who has spent the last eight days before the High Court at Dunedin on trial charged with murder and four counts of threatening to kill.

The Crown case is that the defendant killed Amber-Rose to protect his faltering medical career.

Just minutes before she was killed, the girl had told him she was planning to make sexual allegations to both police and the defendant's Dunedin Hospital superiors.

Ms Rough, who examined the scene at Clermiston Ave, said Amber-Rose died lying on her front on her bed.

Swabs taken from various areas of her body and under her fingernails failed to give any clues as to the identity of her assailant, the jury heard.

Two large blood streaks on the wall and one on the light switch were similarly of no help.

But investigators had more success at Skantha's Fairfield home.

Amber-Rose Rush was murdered in her Dunedin home last year. Photo :Supplied via NZ Herald
Amber-Rose Rush. Photo :Supplied via NZ Herald
Blood spatter found on the inside of the passenger-side window of his silver BMW matched Amber-Rose's DNA profile, Ms Rough said.

It could have been flicked or cast off a blood-stained object, she told the court.

Tests also revealed there was a transfer stain on the inside of the passenger door, which would likely come from a bloody surface coming into contact with it.

The DNA profile could have been a combination of the defendant and Amber-Rose, the jury heard.

The Crown's key witness – the teenager who allegedly drove Skantha to and from the scene of the crime – said the defendant was in the passenger side of the car as they left the address.

He told the court earlier this week he had seen the doctor place the bloodied knife inside the side pocket of his door.

Ms Rough tested that area and found no evidence of blood.

The 24cm stainless-steel kitchen knife the Crown says was the murder weapon was analysed by scientists, along with the other blades and a knife block found in Skantha's home.

No blood was detected, the witness said.

She was asked by Crown prosecutor Robin Bates how easy it was to clean such an item.

"There's no cracks or grooves for blood to get trapped in. I imagine these are designed for easy cleaning," she said.

After the alleged murder, Skantha and his teenage friend travelled to Brigid Clinton's house in Balclutha where they spent the next two nights.

The teenager previously told police the defendant had taken his clothes there in a bag where they were burned in a plant pot.

Ms Rough said there were blood "flecks" inside a white plastic supermarket bag found at the property which was likely from Amber-Rose.

The teenager also gave evidence he had been instructed to wash Skantha's grey suede shoes but had deliberately left a clear area of blood for police.

Ms Rough found an untouched droplet from the victim beside an eyelet on the right shoe.

Such an elliptical spot, she said, could have come from blood falling directly onto a surface or dropping onto it from another blood-stained object.

Earlier this week, defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC accused Skantha's teenage friend of planting the evidence to frame the doctor.

He denied doing so.

The trial continues. 

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter