Doctor on trial for allegedly killing teenage girl in her Dunedin home

A Dunedin doctor allegedly murdered a teenage girl because he feared allegations she had made about his interactions with minors would end his medical career, a jury has been told.

Dr Venod Skantha, 32, has denied murdering 16-year-old Amber-Rose Rush, who was found dead in her Clermiston Ave home, in the Dunedin suburb of Corstorphine, in February 2018.

Her body was discovered by her mother, Lisa-Ann Rush, who died in a suspected suicide in June 2018.

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith outlined the case against Venod, who also denies four charges of threatening to kill, in the High Court in Dunedin on Monday.

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Skantha, a junior doctor at the Southern District Health Board, was on his final warning at Dunedin Hospital in 2017 after an earlier incident.

The court heard Skantha was almost fired, but the disciplinary action was downgraded because he was under stress due to his mother’s death.

Amber-Rose Rush, 16, was found dead in her Dunedin home in February 2018.

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Amber-Rose Rush, 16, was found dead in her Dunedin home in February 2018.

Smith, who revealed Skantha’s mother was very much alive, told the court another allegation would have ended the doctor’s career.

The court heard Skantha was known to associate with young people. He met met Amber-Rose when she was 15 through a mutual friend, who is now the Crown’s star witness.

The relationship between Skantha and Amber-Rose soured over allegations Skantha had inappropriately touched, offered money for sex and supplied booze to minors.

The situation came to a head on the night of February 2, 2018.

Smith read a series of Facebook messenger posts between the pair to the jury, including one from Amber-Rose shortly before her death in which she wrote about taking the matter “to the police like I should have in the first place”.

The court heard the pair’s mutual friend had told Skantha about an Instagram post containing the allegations.

Skantha arranged to collect the mutual friend, telling him he had a “masterplan”, but did not say what he planned to do.

The pair parked near Amber-Rose’s house, with the mutual friend explaining where she kept a key and where her room was.

He drew a map of where her room was on the dashboard of Skantha’s silver BMW. Police later found the markings as part of their investigation.

Dr Venod Skantha is on trial for the murder of Dunedin teenager Amber-Rose Rush at her home in February 2018.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

Dr Venod Skantha is on trial for the murder of Dunedin teenager Amber-Rose Rush at her home in February 2018.

The Crown said Skantha then told the mutual friend to wait. He entered the house where Amber-Rose’s mother and partner were asleep, and the teen was on her phone using earphones just before midnight.

Skantha allegedly used a pillow to subdue the teen, then plunged a knife deep into her neck, almost severing her ear, Smith said.

He attempted to slit her throat, although did not puncture the skin.

The Crown alleged Skantha took Amber-Rose’s phone, then asked his friend to open the car door and sat in the passenger seat. He asked the friend to put the seatbelt on for him.

The pair then drove to Blackhead Quarry where the phone was dumped in a pond. The pair returned to Skantha’s home where he ordered the friend to cleanup the car, Smith said.

Skantha allegedly cleaned the knife, while several bags of bloodied clothing were put in two bags.

The pair then travelled to Skantha’s girlfriend’s house in Balclutha and he burnt the clothing in a terracotta pot, before filling it in with potting mix.

The Crown alleged Skantha threatened his friend and three members of his family while in Balclutha.

The friend later returned home and told his family about what had happened, the contacted police.

Lisa Rush and her daughter Amber-Rose Rush.

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Lisa Rush and her daughter Amber-Rose Rush.

JURY TOLD TO STAY OFFLINE

Earlier jurors were asked about Facebook posts made after the death of Dunedin teen Amber-Rose Rush.

Justice Gerald Nation told the 10 men and two women on the jury that the case received had intense media interest, prompting people to comment about it online.

He noted comments had been made on the Dunedin News Facebook page that included incorrect information about the case.

The posts contained prejudice and anger against whomever killed Rush.

The jury was urged not to make any online inquiries regarding the case.

Any member of the jury who commented on the posts was urged to contact the court.

Before heading south to begin his medical career, Skantha lived on the North Shore and studied medicine at Auckland University.

In the months before Rush’s death, Skantha had been working at Dunedin Hospital.