Killer doctor Venod Skantha should receive a real "life" sentence today to reflect that he ended two lives - not just Amber-Rose Rush's, the teen's grieving family says.
Skantha brutally murdered Amber-Rose to stop her exposing him for offering to pay young women for sex.
The Dunedin doctor sneaked into the 16-year-old's home and stabbed her to death in February 2018.
Skantha, 32, is due to be sentenced for the murder in the High Court at Dunedin on Friday.
Amber-Rose's family say they want justice for the teenager's death - and an acknowledgment of the role Skantha played in her mother's death in a suspected suicide four months later.
On the eve of the sentencing, Amber-Rose's stepfather Brendon MacNee told the Herald that he wanted Skantha's sentence to adequately represent a "life for a life".
"It's been horrific," he said.
"As a doctor, he took an oath to save lives - not to take them away. I never want him out of jail.
"The Bible says 'an eye for an eye'. I can't close my eyes at night, all I see are their dead bodies - the nightmares are horrific."
MacNee has endured Amber-Rose's murder and then the death of his wife Lisa-Ann Mills, Amber's mother, four months later.
"I believe he is directly responsible for two deaths - Lisa-Ann died with Amber that day. We had to go through two deaths. We were a close and loving family, no one thought of suicide - he has destroyed our entire family," he said.
"Our grandkids had to leave town because people were staring at them and teasing them and stuff- no one could leave the house after Amber's death."
MacNee said he and Lisa-Ann had been "soul mates" for 13 years. She had never recovered after the morning the couple found Amber-Rose murdered in her bed at the family's Corstophine home.
"There was blood everywhere, I tried to do CPR but she was cold," he said.
"Lisa-Ann screamed - I will never forget that scream. Lisa-Ann also died that day but it took four months for her body to catch up.
"Her soul went with that scream. After Amber's death she was a totally different person and would just stare in space."
Lisa-Ann died four months after the murder in a suspected suicide. Skantha's trial was told Amber-Rose had considered blackmailing the doctor and she and Lisa-Ann had previously discussed going to his house to ask for money.
In the days after Amber-Rose's murder Skantha had visited a grieving Lisa-Ann, taking her flowers and a card, and speculated as to who the killer could be.
Skantha was found guilty of Amber-Rose's murder in November last year.
MacNee's experience as a victim in the justice system, and from following the Grace Millane case, has prompted him to launch a petition calling on Parliament to ensure that a sentence of life imprisonment does in fact mean life, with no parole for those convicted of murder and serious sexual violation crimes.
"It's about keeping serious offenders like murderers and sex offenders in jail forever," he said.
"I don't want him after 17 years to get out of prison when we have lost everything. Justice is blind, just because you are a doctor you need to be held accountable – you are no more special than an unemployed person."
MacNee's demand for justice is mirrored by Amber-Rose's birth father, Shane Rush, who wants a "fair and just" sentence for his daughter's killer.
"I understand how the world is, there is famine, there is disease, there are wars and I understand the cycle of life - but murder is something you cannot explain.
"If you take someone's life you forfeit your own."
Rush is also struggling to come to terms with the death of his "beautiful" daughter.
"I brought my daughter into this world. I was the first person to touch her when she was born and for me to be the last person to touch in her in a box - to me that is absolutely tragic and I will never forgive him for what he did.
"If you sat in the courtroom and listened to everything that was actually going on there's more blood than just Amber-Rose's or my ex-wife - there are a lot more victims out there.
"There was no remorse in his eyes for me that was really hard."
Stabbed to death to save his medical career
MacNee said he had met Skantha several times and had found him "very arrogant" and thinking he was "superior to everyone".
He had warned Amber-Rose not to "hang out" with the much older doctor.
"Amber was headstrong in many ways, like any teenager," he said.
"Who knew he was capable of doing what he did? He is disgusting, he was so manipulative with the younger kids buying them alcohol and offering to pay money for sex.
"I wish people had spoken up earlier and said something – if they did I am sure Amber would still be here."
On February 2, 2018 Skantha stabbed Amber-Rose to death, just hours after she had threatened to expose him to his employers and the police for offering to pay young women for sex.
She had posted screenshots of a conversation with Skantha on Instagram, claiming he'd been supplying alcohol to minors and "touching up young girls".
Amber-Rose said she would give her evidence to police and the Southern District Health Board.
The post provoked a heated exchange between the two on Facebook Messenger. Skantha then drove to her house with a teenager, who later gave evidence against him for the prosecution.
He claimed Skantha killed Amber-Rose with a knife and that he helped Skantha get rid of her phone and clean-up afterwards - although he deliberately left a blood spot on the doctor's grey suede shoe and later told police where to find it.
Amber-Rose had met Skantha, when she was aged just 15. The murder trial was told Skantha hosted a series of parties at his property, mainly with teenage girls.
One of Amber-Rose's closest male friends, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Herald that Skantha was softly-spoken and when he drank he would shut himself away and distance himself.
He and Amber-Rose were planning to go flatting with Skantha at his house in the Dunedin suburb of Fairfield but had changed their minds.
The male teen said Skantha was a "sex pest" who wanted to have sex with Amber-Rose while she was sleeping.
"I know of one time he tried to have sex while she was asleep. I'm not sure how many other times he actively tried. He would offer her from $2000 to $20,000. But he 'shut down' and wouldn't talk to us when Amber said 'No'," the teen said.
Amber-Rose had also told a friend that Skantha had molested her after a night of heavy drinking. The jury heard she thought she may have been drugged after waking up with Skantha's hand down her pants and her top and bra removed.
At first, the friends thought Skantha seemed like "a genuinely nice guy" until he became overly protective of Amber-Rose.
"The more we hung out with him at his house, the more obsessed he got with her. He literally drank every day.
"When we stayed at his house, he would start work at eight in the morning. He would come into my room with a bottle of wine in his hand, have a swig then leave," the male teen said.
When he and Amber-Rose decided not to move in with Skantha the doctor had offered her "free rent, groceries and a new car."
The teen said Skantha had bragged about obtaining prescription drugs from the hospital and morphine.
"He told us he had stolen drugs from the hospital before. It was easy as and he had no problem getting them for us," the man said.
Two weeks before Amber-Rose's murder Skantha said he was extremely "depressed".
"His drinking skyrocketed to the point he said he wasn't going back to work and threatened about taking his own life. The other worrying thing was he slept with a machete under his bed.
"He showed it to us and said how easy it would be to take someone's head off with it," the male teen said.
'She stuck up for the underdog'
To her family Amber-Rose was known as "Peanut", "Ambie-Angel", or "Short".
The "caring, cheeky, spunky" teenager loved potato salad and chicken nuggets.
She was born in Christchurch on October 29, 2001, the youngest of three siblings, and grew up to become the "boss" in the family.
At her funeral, her family described her has having a strong sense of justice and "sticking up for the underdog", MacNee said.
"She wasn't afraid to say what she thought, she didn't take any shit."
MacNee has not had any contact with Skantha's family but doesn't blame them for their son's actions.
"It's not their fault. I am sure they are pretty devastated - I mean what kind of son says 'My mother is dead' to save his job when he was drunk at the hospital?
"Who does that?"
Skantha was employed by the Southern District Health Board on May 24, 2016.
He initially worked in Invercargill, before transferring to Dunedin Hospital a year later.
His job as a house officer was soon in jeopardy. An independent investigation by the DHB found that in July 2017 Skantha went to an orthopaedic ward flushed and smelling of alcohol, and dated a patient's IV incorrectly.
The investigation recommended Skantha should lose his job but through his lawyer, Skantha lied and claimed he was grieving over his mother's death.
His mother is still alive - his parents and his two sisters live in Auckland. They have declined to comment.
Amber-Rose's family 'heartbroken'
Brendon MacNee's petition to Parliament has so far collected just over 1000 signatures.
Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokeswoman Jess McVicar said Amber-Rose's family were heartbroken: "And I think that's the reason for the petition.
"In some cases we have dealt with there is one family member or parent who will commit suicide – the statistics on that are pretty high."
McVicar said the trust supported MacNee's call for a life sentence to mean just that.
"It's the victim who gets the life sentence," she said.
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