Body modifier’s claim on snowflake death

Brendan Russell has appealed against his conviction. Picture: NCA NewsWire/James Gourley.

A body modification artist who was jailed after a procedure to insert a synthetic snowflake implant under a woman’s skin resulted in her death has argued she could not have been seriously ill when he last saw her, because she asked for another procedure.

Brendan Leigh Russell, 42, is fighting to have his conviction quashed and to be freed from jail after he was last year sentenced to up to a decade in prison after being found guilty of a string of offences including his role in the death of a female client.

After a judge-alone trial, he was found guilty of manslaughter, intentionally causing grievous bodily harm and female genital mutilation relating to procedures performed on three women between 2015 and 2017.

One of his victims, who cannot be identified, was found dead inside her Central Coast home after having a synthetic snowflake implant inserted into her hand at his studio at the Erina Fair shopping centre.

The court was told the woman returned to Russell’s studio multiple times before her death and complained she experienced pain and swelling in her right hand because of an infection.

Two days after her last visit to Russell, she was found dead due to septicaemia.

During her sentencing remarks last year, District Court Judge Helen Syme told the court the implant was “inherently dangerous” and became discoloured and swollen.

Brendan Russell. Picture: NCA NewsWire/James Gourley.

Russell was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail, with a non-parole period of seven years and six months.

However, he has launched Court of Appeal proceedings against both his conviction and his sentence.

He watched on via videolink from Lithgow prison on Friday as his barrister, Mark Tedeschi KC, told the court that it could not be excluded that a cocktail of drugs could have played a role in the woman’s death.

As well, Mr Tedeschi argued when Russell last saw the woman – two days before she was found dead in her home – she could not have been in dire need of medical assistance given she asked him to perform another procedure.

“It is inconceivable that if she was in dire need of urgent medical attention having complained about the procedure that he had done on the back of her hand, that if she was that ill, that she would have asked for another procedure to be done,” Mr Tedeschi told the court.

“It’s much more consistent with her being in pain, having some infection in her hands, but not suffering from septicaemia at the time, not being in a condition which warranted immediate medical attention.”

Body modification artist Brendan Russell put a snowflake into a 30-year-old woman who later died of blood poisoning.
Body modification artist Brendan Russell put a snowflake into a 30-year-old woman who later died of blood poisoning.

Russell was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm after he performed a botched “tummy tuck” on another woman in 2016.

A third charge of female genital mutilation related to the removal of a woman’s labia in January 2015.

Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Nicholson argued that Russell was not capable or qualified to perform any of the procedures safely.

“All of the evidence at the trial was that the implantation of a foreign body into a hand is an inherently dangerous surgery because of the fact there is no, in effect, exit and that a foreign body being introduced into the body carries a very high risk of infection,” Ms Nicholson said.

Brendan Leigh Russell was earlier this year jailed for seven-and-a-half years. Picture: NCA NewsWire/James Gourley.

“The second procedure of having moved that around and re-sown it up was even more dangerous.

“If the question is was he able to perform any of those surgeries competently and safely. The crown position is no, which is why they are illegal.”

She also argued that Russell’s sentence was not excessive given he had not expressed remorse.

Justice Andrew Bell, Kristina Stern and Natalie Adams will hand down their decision on Russell’s appeal at a later date.