Amber-Rose Rush’s sister warned her a doctor was a “sugar daddy” who was sexually grooming the 16-year-old.
Shantelle Rush took to the stand on day two of the trial of Dunedin doctor Venod Skantha. The 32-year-old denies killing Amber-Rose, who was found dead by her mother at their Clermiston Ave home in the Dunedin suburb of Corstorphine on February 3, 2018. He also denies four charges of threatening to kill.
Rush, Amber-Rose’s older sister by six years, told of the last message she received from her sister: “I am so angry.”
She did not see the message until following morning, but by then her sister was dead.
Rush said she never met Skantha, but raised concerns about him in a series of Facebook messages with her sister.
The messages, read under cross examination from defence lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC, included plans for Amber-Rose and her friend to move into Skantha’s Fairfield home, which she described as “so flash”.
“Living with a rich doctor YOLO (you only live once),” Amber-Rose messaged her sister.
When Rush found out the doctor was 30, she expressed concern to her sister, who described Skantha “as like a dad to us”.
Rush said she questioned why a doctor would hang out with teenagers and called him a “sugar daddy”, urging her sister to look up the meaning of “sexual grooming”.
“No, he not into me LMFAO f… that,” her sister replied.
The messages also disclosed that Amber-Rose spent some money on Skantha’s credit card and “he won’t even notice”.
She also said her mother would try to get money out of Skantha over something. “He will or I’m going to the cops,” Amber-Rose messaged.
Amber-Rose’s mother Lisa Ann Rush died in a suspected suicide in June 2018, and in a statement read ot the court on Monday alleged Skantha had offered her daughter $50 for sex, then raised it to $20,000.
The Crown alleges Skantha killed the teen over fears she would go public with allegations about his interactions with minors, which would effectively end his medical career.
Skantha, a junior doctor at the Southern District Health Board, had been on his final warning at Dunedin Hospital in 2017 after an earlier incident.
Amber-Rose’s boyfriend, Kristin Clark, said the pair met through the Tinder dating app in early 2018.
He had stayed at her home several times, including the Thursday before her death. He told the court she contacted him over Snapchat on the Friday, February 2, about angry messages she was exchanging with Skantha, who was often called Vinny.
She sent him screenshots of the conversation, but did not want his help, he said.
He offered to pick her up, but at 11.53pm, she replied “I won’t be allowed to”.
Clark sent her several other messages, but she did not reply. He decided to drive to her home – about 10 minutes away – and sent her a message before knocking “reasonably loud” on her window.
He sent her a photo of her house to show he was outside and waited in his car, but left when he saw her brother, Jayden, and his partner arrive back home.
Under cross-examination, Eaton asked him about the time he went to Skantha’s house, and Clark said they stayed a few hours and had some drinks.
He confirmed some of the screenshots supplied by Amber-Rose showed messages from her ex boyfriend, who had once beaten her up.
‘I SAW SO MUCH BLOOD’
Lisa Ann Rush’s partner, Brendon MacNee, took the stand on Monday afternoon, and recalled her asking him if he had let the family dog out of Amber-Rose’s room on the morning of February 3.
He had not, so Lisa Ann opened the bedroom door and he heard her scream.
He called police after seeing Amber-Rose lying face down in “lots and lots of blood”.
He told her mother to leave the room, and turned the teenager over.
A visibly upset MacNee said blood hit the floor as Amber-Rose’s brother and his partner entered the room.
Efforts to revive Amber-Rose were in vain as “she was all stiff and cold”.
“She was dead,” MacNee said.
He said he noticed Amber-Rose’s left ear had been cut in half and her throat had been cut.
MacNee, a former butcher, said he knew she had been killed and started to look for a knife, but could not find one.
He told Jayden: “We have to get out of here, she’s been murdered.”
MacNee, under questioning from Eaton, confirmed the family dog was placid and did not bark much.
Jayden Rush told the court he had found a spare key – usually located under a Buddha statue – in the door early on February 3. He also found the kitchen light left on, which was also unusual.
The evening before, he knocked on his sister’s door but she did not answer. He awoke the next morning to his mother screaming “no”.
Rush said blood around his sister’s neck made it “pretty obvious to us, she was dead”.
He saw only headphones and no knife when he pulled back her blankets.
A neighbour, a former nurse, came into the room and put Amber-Rose into a recovery position.
Rush described his sister as “definitely” a social person, and said she had several ex-boyfriends, one of whom had broken her arm.
The trial continues.