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Body modifier found guilty of manslaughter

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A body modifier has been found guilty of manslaughter, having deterred a woman from seeking medical attention after her implanted hand became infected.

Brendan Leigh Russell, who was considered a “god” by his victim, inserted a silicon snowflake into the hand of the 30-year-old woman in his parlour on 20 March, 2017.

He performed a second procedure on 10 April, two days before her death.

A substantial cause of death was sepsis stemming from the hand infection, Judge Helen Syme found in the Sydney District Court on Tuesday.

She also found the body modifier – who operated in Newcastle and the Central Coast – repeatedly breached his duty of care from the time of the “inherently dangerous” first operation to the night before the woman’s death and those breaches were so significant, it warranted criminal punishment.

The verdict followed two guilty verdicts on Monday to charges related to two other clients Russell operated on in 2015 and 2016.

A jail term is almost inevitable, the judge has said.

Russell had accepted he owed a duty of care to the deceased woman but said it didn’t rise to a level of a gross breach in circumstances where doctors saw her on 11 April for other reasons and didn’t identify the infection.

A defence expert cast doubt on a sepsis diagnosis, dubbing it a “50-50” possibility.

But, Judge Syme dismissed that as being based on “flawed primary information”.

The body modifier went by the monikers BSlice and hemostat and was said to be in a competitive crew called the Mod Squad.

While he wore gloves and sometimes a mask, Russell took few other basic hygiene measures when operating in his tattoo room inside a shopping centre.

The deceased woman, who cannot be identified, implicitly trusted the body modifier and had nine procedures done, telling her mother “Brendan’s a god … he’s the only one I would ever let do this to me”.

“It was he she turned to when she had pain or, as she believed, was infection at the site of an implant,” Judge Syme said.

Russell deterred the woman from seeking medical advice, by undertaking to fix problems himself, advising against telling doctors who did the body modification and advising aftercare such as rest and ibuprofen, the judge found.

“He told her her hand was not infected when there was clear evidence it was – evidence I find he was well aware of,” she said.

The woman was reluctant to share her pain with medical practitioners due to her “unusual” level of trust in Russell and her fear he would face consequences for “illegal” procedures, Judge Syme said.

The woman saw him on 10 April and complained about pain and possible infection, leading Russell to reopen her wound and blood and pus to gush out.

He repositioned the implant and re-stitched the wound, the judge said.

“Overwhelming” evidence and opinion of medical experts stated the woman needed urgent medical assistance at that time.

While she may have taken some oral antibiotics, expert medical evidence said it would have done little in the face of significant infection at a closed abscess.

Russell was on Monday found guilty of female genital mutilation in Newcastle in January 2015, having used a branding iron in a procedure that left the woman unable to use tampons or wear underwear without discomfort.

He was also found guilty of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm by performing a quasi-medical and “clearly dangerous” abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck” on a 38-year-old woman in November 2016.

In that case, Judge Syme found Russell had “little or no regard for proper, informed consent” nor any adequate aftercare instructions.

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