Mystery photos taken on Amber-Rose's phone

Rob Kidd, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Nov 2019, 3:39PM
Vernod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo / Christine O'Connor
Vernod Skantha denies murdering Amber-Rose Rush. Photo / Christine O'Connor

Mystery photos taken on Amber-Rose's phone

Rob Kidd, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Nov 2019, 3:39PM

Six minutes after Amber-Rose Rush sent her last message her phone took a series of photos.

The dark image with a hazy light around the middle was shown to the jury in the High Court at Dunedin today.

Venod Skantha (32) is accused of stabbing the 16-year-old girl to death while she lay in bed at her Corstorphine home.

The Crown's key witness, who previously told the court he drove the defendant to and from the Clermiston Ave scene, gave evidence the defendant went into the house and emerged with the victim's phone and driver's licence.

The teenager said Skantha repeatedly smashed the phone on the pavement before they drove off and dumped it at Blackhead Quarry.

Police digital forensic analyst Bevin Pelvin said the burst of photos, taken at 12.01am on February 3 last year took place in the area of the house, according to electronic data.

Amber-Rose Rush. Photo / NZ Herald
Amber-Rose Rush. Photo / NZ Herald

He told the jury he had enhanced the brightness in the images, but nothing obvious could be made out.

At 11.55pm, Amber-Rose sent her final message to her boyfriend.

For the first time, the jury was today shown a photo of the defendant and victim together.

An image Mr Pelvin recovered from the Facebook cache pictured a smiling Skantha cradling the teenager in his arms.

It appeared to have been viewed by the defendant a month before the murder, he said.

Mr Pelvin – who was only recently able to analyse Skantha's phone due to new software becoming available - also noted there was no Google location data on the defendant's phone for February 2 and 3.

"In my opinion, I believe [location data has] either been turned off or deleted," he said.

Skantha lied to DHB about mother dying to keep job, court hears.

​The court earlier heard that months before Skanta allegedly stabbed Amber-Rose to death the Dunedin doctor turned up to a hospital meeting and treated a patient after drinking beers.

The only reason Skantha was not dismissed, Southern District Health Board chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar said, was because his mother had recently died.

But that was a lie.

The 32-year-old is a former house officer.

Dr Millar told the court this morning that Skantha missed three consecutive days of work at the start of July 2017.

On the third day, the doctor messaged his supervisor Dr David Gow and explained he had suffered the unexpected loss of his mother.

The pair arranged to meet at 2pm the following day to discuss matters.

Instead Skantha turned up for the sit-down a day early, with two friends in tow.

He had consumed two beers with his lunch, a subsequent investigation found.

After finding out he had the date wrong, instead of leaving, the defendant went to the orthopaedic ward where he usually worked.

He flushed a woman's IV line, reattached it too tightly and annotated it with the previous day's date.

The patient was so concerned about Skantha's erratic demeanour that she asked him to confirm it was saline.

The independent investigation that followed was sent to Dr Millar confirming the doctor had come to work smelling of alcohol, was acting emotionally and treated someone while on sick leave.

Skantha said his mother had died a week before the incident, on June 30.

A supervisor reported seeing him at 4pm that day driving his car and smoking, when his shift was due to end at 4.30pm.

Considering the findings of the review, Dr Millar found evidence of serious misconduct and deliberate or negligent behaviour.

SDHB chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar. Photo / Otago Daily Times
SDHB chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar. Photo / Otago Daily Times

He made the interim decision to terminate Skantha's employment.

However, a letter from the defendant's lawyer earned him an eleventh-hour reprieve.

She wished to emphasise the context around the incident and consequences if he was dismissed, Dr Millar said.

The lawyer stressed the impact of the family death and said a dismissal in those circumstances would be punitive and harsh.

It seemed reasonable to accept the loss of a family member so close could have caused Skantha's to behave in an unprofessional manner and was unlikely to be repeated, Dr Millar said.

He amended his decision to put the doctor on a final warning.

It is the Crown case that Skantha killed Amber-Rose because she had threatened to go to hospital bosses and the police with allegations of sexual assaults.

She was found dead in the bedroom of her Corstorphine home on February 3, 2018.

Justice Gerald Nation stressed to the jury at the outset they were hearing the evidence because of the prosecution's case around motive.

If you decide he did lie to people at the hospital you will have to decide whether he was more likely to lie when interviewed about Amber-Rose's death, the judge said.

It is understood Skantha's police interview will be played for the jury later in the trial.