Accused hinted death a suicide

Venod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Venod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Less than two days after allegedly stabbing a 16-year-old girl to death, a Dunedin doctor suggested to her mother it was probably a suicide.

When Amber-Rose Rush's mother, Lisa Ann, ''vehemently'' denied that was the case, Venod Skantha raised the names of a few people who might be involved.

The 32-year-old is on trial for murder and four counts of threatening to kill, before the High Court at Dunedin, where yesterday's evidence was dominated by the defendant's ex-girlfriend, Balclutha lawyer Brigid Clinton.

Though the pair had broken up months earlier, she had planned to see Skantha on the evening of February 2 last year for him to sign some legal papers.

However, he did not show up at her home as planned.

The Crown said Skantha was involved in a heated online exchange with Amber-Rose that night which ended with her confirming she was going to tell police and his hospital bosses that he had sexually assaulted her.

Prosecutors said the desire to silence her resulted in the defendant requesting a ride to the girl's Corstorphine home from his teenage friend, then stabbing the victim six times as she lay in her bed around midnight.

Skantha and the teen - who has name suppression - later drove to Ms Clinton's house.

About 1am she received a message saying he had been asleep and was now coming over.

Ms Clinton told him not to.

She was ''done with him, done with it'', she said.

However, an hour later, Skantha arrived at the house along with his 16-year-old associate.

They all went to bed and the next day visited The Warehouse.

''Venod mentioned having a bonfire; something to do,'' Ms Clinton said.

Skantha bought a large terracotta pot and lit a fire in it in the back yard while Clinton returned to the store.

''Venod said he was burning his daggiest clothes,'' she told the court.

They consisted of a charcoal grey jumper he wore around the house and a pair of light grey sweat pants, he told her.

The Crown told the jury at the trial's outset that the garments being burned were the clothes covered in Amber-Rose's blood.

Ms Clinton said she sat and talked to Skantha while they toasted marshmallows over the flames.

The ashes were later tossed into the garden, the witness said.

After spending a couple of nights in Balclutha, the defendant's teenage friend got a call from Amber-Rose's mother.

She wanted to speak to anyone who had had contact with her daughter.

They decided to visit Ms Rush in the hotel at which she was staying but they stopped at New World on the way - the supermarket where Amber-Rose had formerly worked.

Skantha bought flowers and a card for the grieving mother, along with a couple of bottles of wine for himself.

''Lisa was obviously really upset ... pale, in shock,'' Ms Clinton told the court.

''I remember Venod was sat next to her and suggested it was a suicide, to which she vehemently said no.''

There was then a discussion about potential suspects, she said, before they left.

On the way back to Skantha's Fairfield address, they dropped the teen at home.

Defence counsel Jonathan Eaton QC asked Ms Clinton whether she had heard any whispering between the defendant and his mate as she drove.

She had not.

The teenager had made a statement to police that Skantha had quietly said, ''No word or I'll kill you'', then laughed and shook his hand, before he got out, Mr Eaton said.

Ms Clinton said she had not heard such a conversation.

Back home, the woman said her ex-partner seemed in an ''irritated, almost indignant'' mood and was receiving numerous alerts on his phone.

He asked her to retrieve his samurai sword.

While ''waving it around above himself'', Skantha cut his finger and Ms Clinton took him to the urgent doctor to be stitched up.

Unbeknown to them, police had been tailing them throughout the afternoon and as they left the medical centre, officers pulled them over and they were separated for interview.

''I was in shock,'' she said, after being told of the allegations.

The trial continues.






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