Body modifier Brendan Russell convinced client she was in 'good hands', court told

By Jamie McKinnell
Brendan Leigh Russell has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and female genital mutilation. (AAP: Peter Rae)

A former student nurse has told a Sydney court a body modifier who removed skin from her stomach was "confident and very convincing" and she didn't consider possible complications.

The woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, is being cross examined during the trial of Central Coast man Brendan Leigh Russell.

Mr Russell, 40, denies the charges against him, including intentionally causing grievous bodily harm, during the procedure which was performed at the Transitions tattoo and body modification parlour at Erina Fair on the Central Coast in November 2016,

The NSW District Court heard the woman was "nervous" about the procedure and negotiated the price down from $1,600 to $800, which was later refunded.

She told the court over a video link today that during initial discussions, Mr Russell showed her photographs of a New Zealand woman for whom he had performed a similar procedure.

"Whatever Brendan was saying back then and the pictures he was showing me, he was so confident and he was very convincing," she said.

"I looked at him like family and I felt I was in really good hands and he knew what he was doing, I would have no issues."

The woman could not recall her discussion with Mr Russell word for word and said she "wasn't thinking" about risks at the time, just her fear of needles and concern about being under local anaesthetic.

She could not remember a claim put forward by defence lawyer Michal Mantaj that Mr Russell warned her of the risks of internal pain, internal bleeding and infection.

"He made me feel so confident," she told the court.

The woman said she hadn't learned about surgical complications as part of her nursing studies.

The court has heard Mr Russell held no medical qualifications but completed $15,000 worth of training with one of the world's "top" body modification artists in the US.

The woman could not remember Mr Russell warning her that healing might take 18-24 months and be painful.

She said while she was getting sutures removed in the days after the procedure he described her bleeding as "normal" and a part of her body's healing process.

She did remember using the phrase "Elle Macpherson tummy" to describe her desired results, insisting Mr Russell gave the impression the procedure was "easy".

Mr Mantaj put it to the woman that after the procedure, she told Mr Russell either in person or in text or Facebook messages that she was “really sore” and “did something stupid, I tried to do a bit of work". 

The witness denied this.

She admitted that while at Gosford Hospital, she may have lied to staff in telling them the modification was performed in Sydney.

The woman’s husband took a series of photos during the procedure, which were shown to the court as he gave evidence.

The husband, who also cannot be named, recalled at one stage during the modification Mr Russell put his scalpel in the woman’s open wound and let it go.

“It was just sitting in her fatty tissue, he just left it there,” he said.

“I don't know why he did that.”

Mr Russell has also pleaded not guilty to charges of female genital mutilation and manslaughter after the death of another client.

Judge Helen Syme, who is overseeing the trial without a jury, had previously been told of the woman's "extreme pain" when her anaesthetic wore off.

She recalled feeling "dizzy" at home and said there was "blood everywhere" when she got off the couch to go to the toilet.

The woman eventually underwent corrective surgery and has been left with a long scar.

The trial is expected to last for two weeks.


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