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Key witness admits exaggeration, trying to sell interview in trial of Dunedin doctor accused of murder


One of the Crown’s key witnesses in the prosecution of Dunedin doctor Venod Skantha, who is accused of stabbing a 16-year-old girl to death, has admitted under cross-examination to telling exaggerated stories and trying to sell an interview to the media.

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Venod Skantha is accused of killing teen Amber-Rose Rush last year. Source: 1 NEWS

The witness, who has permanent name suppression, was repeatedly asked if they were “exaggerating or telling lies” by defence lawyer Jonathan Eaton QC at trial in the High Court at Dunedin this afternoon.

Mr Eaton suggested the witness was personally involved in what happened, saying “the defence position is that you have way too much detailed information”.

"The only way you could've had that much of the detail is if you were involved personally,” he said. “The only reason you've been so inconsistent in the accounts you've given is because you're protecting your own position to implicate Dr Skantha.”

The witness denied both of those allegations.

Prosecutors claim Skantha killed Amber-Rose Rush on February 2nd last year to stop her coming forward with claims of impropriety with minors, including offering payments for sex, which would have cost him his job at the Southern District Health Board.

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Dr Venod Skantha denies murdering the 16-year-old, who was found dead in her home in February. Source: 1 NEWS

Skantha denies killing Ms Rush and four charges of threatening to kill.

The witness later said Skantha had confessed to killing Ms Rush and threatened to kill the witness and the witness’ family if police were told.

But Mr Eaton suggested the witness’ story was like a movie plot, where key pieces of evidence had been cleverly left out.

“It sounds like a good script for a film,” the lawyer said.

The witness agreed they were known for exaggerating, often for a bit of attention, but “did not know what to say” to the movie plot allegation. The witness agreed they’d exaggerated what had happened in Facebook messages with friends after the day, telling some friends Skantha had made threats with a knife when that was really an “exaggeration”.

The witness had previously described themselves as a “compulsive liar” in court, but today clarified the use of the word “compulsive”, saying they’d mistakenly thought it meant “white lies”.

The witness also admitted to contacting RNZ in the days following the killing, to say they knew more about the murder and later requested payment for an interview. That request was denied by RNZ and police later blocked any interviews.

The trial continues.