Woman denies Russell alarmed before death

A phone call between Brendan Russell and a woman the night she died is a key element of the case.
A phone call between Brendan Russell and a woman the night she died is a key element of the case.

A person who overheard a dying woman's last words to a NSW body modifier has categorically dismissed suggestions the woman said she was high on drugs.

Brendan Leigh Russell, 40, has pleaded not guilty in the NSW District Court to the woman's manslaughter after inserting a plastic snowflake into her hand shortly before her April 2017 death.

A phone call between the pair the night she died is a key element of the prosecution case, which alleges Russell dismissed the woman's concerns of infection and told her to seek his care the following day.

But in questioning a regular of Russell's Central Coast parlour who overheard both sides of the phone call, Russell's lawyer on Wednesday suggested the woman had spoken of her dog accidentally popping a stitch and the wound becoming sore.

"I suggest Mr Russell said ... you need to come and see me now, as in ASAP," Michal Mantaj said.

"Absolutely not," the witness replied.

The witness, who cannot be identified, gave an identical answer to Mr Mantaj's suggestion the woman said words to the effect of "I can't, I'm too high, I've had heaps of oxycontin and weed, and I'm having a barbeque with my neighbours."

Mr Mantaj suggested his client had responded to the drug-taking with alarm, swearing and reiterating his call for the woman to seek his care immediately.

"Absolutely I guarantee that was never said," the witness replied.

The only point of agreement about the conversation was that the woman had apologised for stressing Russell towards its conclusion.

Mr Mantaj suggested it came after the woman said she'd take medications available to her at home, including ibuprofen.

But the witness said Russell had raised ibuprofen himself and the "I'm sorry for stressing you out" phrase uttered by the woman was because Russell had become angry.

She also denied her evidence was motivated by a want to seek revenge for the way Russell had treated her.

"That is absolutely not the truth," she said.

On the witness's version of events, the dying customer sounded "groggy" during the call and said: "I think I have a really bad infection."

"You could tell she was really worried about it, she was in pain," she said on Tuesday.

"You could tell there was something wrong."

She said Russell told the woman "it's not infected, it's just irritated" and advised she see him in the morning.

The woman's body was found the next day.

Russell, who also denies two other charges related to two other female customers, was arrested in 2018.

He remains on bail. The trial continues.

Australian Associated Press