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Clayton Robert WEATHERSTON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Weatherston said he was provoked by the emotional pain of a tumultuous six month relationship with Elliott and because she had attacked him with a pair of scissors
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 8, 2008
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: January 9, 1976
Victim profile: Sophie Kate Elliott, 22 (his ex-girlfriend)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife (216 times)
Location: Dunedin, Otago Region, South Island, New Zealand
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years on September 15, 2009
photo gallery

Murder of Sophie Elliott

On 9 January 2008, 22-year-old Sophie Kate Elliott (born 11 June 1985) was stabbed to death by ex-boyfriend Clayton Robert Weatherston (born 9 January 1976), in Dunedin, New Zealand. The crime and trial were covered extensively in the news media, and contributed to the government abolishing the partial defence of provocation in cases of murder.


Elliott and Weatherston had a romantic relationship which lasted around six months and ended prior to her death; in court, witnesses described the relationship as troubled. Weatherston had been an economics tutor at the University of Otago, and also taught Elliott, who completed an honours degree in economics. On the day she died, she was packing to relocate to Wellington the next day, and start a job at the New Zealand Treasury.

At around 12:30 pm on 9 January 2008, Sophie Elliott and her mother Lesley were at the family home in the suburb of Ravensbourne northeast of the city centre when Weatherston arrived unannounced, saying he had a farewell present. A short time later Lesley heard her daughter screaming. A New Zealand Police officer responding to a 111 call from Lesley found Weatherston locked in Sophie's bedroom. When asked what he had done, he told the officer "I killed her". He was then arrested and taken into custody.

Forensic pathologist Martin Sage performed the autopsy the next day, and found Elliott died from blood loss. Two wounds pierced her heart and one lung, with other wounds to her neck and throat severing the main artery and the major vein. In total she received 216 separate injuries, mostly stab wounds from a knife blade, with some inflicted by scissors. Additionally there were seven blunt force injuries. The pathologist found some defensive wounds, and that the attack targeted aspects of beauty and was intended to disfigure.


At the end of a week-long depositions hearing during May 2008 in the Dunedin High Court, Weatherston pleaded not guilty and was committed for trial by two justices of the peace. The trial moved to the Christchurch High Court for suppressed reasons, and was scheduled to start on 22 June 2009. Weatherston was represented by Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, who argued a defence of provocation. The knife used in the attack came from Weatherston's kitchen; the defence stated he carried it concealed all the time for self-defence. Two psychiatrists also appeared for the defence, stating he had narcissistic personality disorder.

After a five-week trial the jury returned a guilt verdict on 22 July, and on 15 September Justice Judith Potter sentenced Weatherston to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years, saying she believed the killing was deliberate and controlled. The news media in November 2009 revealed the victim impact statement of Sophie Elliott's father had been censored at the request of the judge, preventing him from addressing some of the claims Weatherston made during the trial.


On 13 October 2009, Weatherston's lawyers filed an appeal, claiming there was a "lynch mob" mentality over his actions. On 7 April 2011, Weatherton's lawyer Robert Lithgow QC appealed the 2009 verdict before the Court of Appeal on seven grounds, including that Weatherston did not receive a fair trial due to widespread media coverage, with the magazine Listener attacking the provocation defence. Lithgow also argued that comments made by Law Commission deputy president Warren Young unduly influenced the Christchurch jury, and challenged the use of photographs of the wounds Weatherston inflicted on Elliott as exhibits. The Crown prosecutor Cameron Mander dismissed these arguments, citing that the jury had been instructed to ignore media coverage of the case and that Young's attack on provocation could not be linked specifically to the Elliott murder. Elliott’s parents and Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar also criticized the appeal.

Three Court of Appeal judges reviewed the 2009 trial and verdict, and on 17 June 2011 denied the appeal on all seven grounds. They said that Judge Potter had sufficiently instructed the jury to ignore media coverage, and that the use of the photographs did not undermine the trial's fairness. Weatherston sought leave of the Supreme Court to appeal the Court of Appeal's denial, but it rejected this on 13 September 2011.

Weatherston's defence, not including the Supreme Court request, cost approximately NZD269,000 in legal aid.

Sophie Elliott Foundation

On 6 October 2010, the Sophie Elliott Foundation was launched. The aim of the foundation is to warn and educate young women of the signs of an abusive relationship. One of the trustees is Kristin Dunne-Powell, who suffered abuse at the hands of high-profile sports presenter Tony Veitch. The foundation's main aim is to raise money to fund a nation-wide primary prevention programme and to support local community initiatives which align with the foundation. On 10 June 2011, Elliott's parents launched the book Sophie Elliott—A Mother's Story of Her Family's Loss and Their Quest For Change to present her side of the story while warning young women of the dangers of domestic violence.


Weatherston gets life

By Debbie Porteous -

September 15, 2009

Clayton Weatherston has been sentenced to life imprisonment with 18 year minimum period of imprisonment for the brutal murder of Otago University student Sophie Elliot.

Judge Judith Potter said Sophie Elliott's death was a tragedy in every sense of the word. It was undoubtedly a highly brutal and callous murder, among the worst, she said, as she handed down the sentence to Weatherston in the High Court at Christchurch at 12.17pm today.

The courtroom was very subdued and Weatherston had no reaction as he was sentenced. No-one cried.

Judge Potter said she believed the killing was deliberate and controlled and rejected the defence that Weatherston was provoked.

A sentencing report from the probation service said it was difficult to assess if there was any long-term risk of Weatherston harming another person because he had not shown any remorse and was unable to control his negative feelings towards Miss Elliott, but Weatherston had said his violence was the result of a unique set of circumstances in his relationship with Miss Elliott.

She took in to account the continued attack and mutilation of Miss Elliott's body after her death, Justice Potter said.

"I am in no doubt this murder was committed with a high level of brutality and callousness."

There was some planning, but it was not over careful and orchestrated, but she rejected Weatherston's evidence that he usually carried the knife with him for his own protection.

She took into account his lack of previous convictions and that he was likely to respond well to therapy.

Miss Elliott, who had been Weatherston's girlfriend, was stabbed in her Dunedin home 216 times on January 9 last year.

Weatherston, 33, an economics tutor at the university, admitted manslaughter at the start of the month-long trial in June but denied murder.

In a move which caused controversy and national debate, he claimed he was provoked into killing Miss Elliott.


Own evidence seals fate

By John Hartevelt -

July 23, 2009

In one of New Zealand's most horrific crimes, Otago University academic Clayton Weatherston stabbed former girlfriend Sophie Elliott 216 times in a frenzied attack. He had an apparently normal Kiwi upbringing, so what turned this intelligent, popular man into a killer?

When Clayton Weatherston held a party to celebrate his graduation, plenty of people attended.

He invited the vice-chancellor. People wanted to celebrate with him.

"I liked Clayton a great deal. He was a good person. We socialised; we even did the rail trail together. We were friends," Associate Professor Paul Hansen said at last year's depositions hearing.

People looked up to Weatherston for his academic ability. He was a leader in his field and had a bright future.

He was the youngest of a family liked and respected in their Dunedin community.

But he also had a dark side. He put people down, was violent with at least one former girlfriend and showed signs of what psychiatric experts would call "grossly narcissistic" behaviour.

The Health Ministry's national director of mental health, Dr David Chaplow, told the trial that Weatherston's narcissism manifested itself when he was frustrated, spurned or threatened. "It is not always operative, and he does have many positive attributes as well."

The different faces of 33-year-old Weatherston the helpful economics supervisor, the arrogant intellectual, the obsessive boyfriend illustrated the great riddle of this trial. How could an apparently bright and sane man take a knife and stab and mutilate former girlfriend Sophie Elliott, 22, in the bedroom of her Dunedin home on January 9 last year?

Was there anything in his background that could have explained such murderous rage?

The Weatherston family Yuleen and Roger Weatherston and their children, Angela, Gareth and Clayton are well-known in the Dunedin suburb of Green Island.

Gareth is chairman of the the Green Island Rugby Club, Roger is a self-employed industrial electrician and Yuleen was until recently on the switchboard at the Otago Polytechnic.

Yuleen Weatherston told a psychiatrist who testified at the trial that her household was "easy and happy".

She said her son never showed any inclination towards anger but was "anxious and found any new activity or change, such as starting school or leaving home, stressful".

At Green Island Primary School, Weatherston quickly became, in his own words, "a big fish in a small pond". He was reading at the level of a 12 to 14-year-old at age six.

"He was a brainy little prick at school," a classroom contemporary recalls.

Another classmate, Dean Moeahu, recalls Weatherston getting stuck into sports.

"If there was any team sports being played, he would get involved," Moeahu says. "He was a nice guy."

Young Weatherston played on the wing for his club rugby team and helped it to a five-year unbeaten streak with a points-scoring record that he boasted to court saw it concede just 38 points against 1900 scored.

Yuleen Weatherston said her son enjoyed a good circle of friends, from his rugby team in particular.

He had problems, such as bedwetting as a child. Another was his poor eyesight, an affliction he detailed in court down to the exact day, November 6, 1987. In a form one maths class quiz, he suffered the indignity, for him, of a mere 14 out of 20 correct after writing the questions down wrongly.

In front of the class, the teacher said to him: "Are you blind?" When Weatherston went to an optometrist he was told that by the time he was 19 he would not be able to see what was on a plate in front of him.

Weatherston says he did not want to wear the glasses he was given.

"I was terrified of being teased. Now glasses are fashionable. Back then it was a source of differentiation and possibly derision from other people," he told the court.

Another fellow pupil, who does not wish to be named,  says he found Weatherston an "awkward sort of person".

He saw what were perhaps the first glimpses of Weatherston's darker side. "He snapped at other kids. He sort of every now and then threw a spastic and buggered off," he says.

Weatherston's obsessiveness and arrogance started to show as he approached the end of high school. He worked furiously to try to reach the high standards he had set for himself, letting extra-curricular activities slide as he aimed for the best academic results. He got them, winning dux of the school and finishing top of his year in all but one subject. But it was not enough.

"I was extremely disappointed with my external examination performance, and part of that I think was created by anxiety," Weatherston said.

The tone was set. Extreme anxiety before exams and an obsession to achieve perfect grades would become a hallmark of his 13-year university career.

After an unsuccessful first stint at Otago University at the start of 1994 he found it overwhelming and says he felt no sense of motivation Weatherston returned in the middle of the year for a business statistics paper.

He achieved perfect internal assessment marks. When it came time to sit the exam at the end of the semester, however, he was a wreck. He was throwing up, and he got a medical certificate to allow him to sit a special exam the next year.

"I just put a lot of pressure on myself. It was a pretty straightforward course and I was over-analysing it," Weatherston said.

A feature of his university career would be an inclination to pull out of a paper if he thought he would get anything less than an A-plus grade. It is understood Weatherston pulled out of one paper two years in a row when on both occasions he would easily have achieved an A or an A minus. It was only on the third occasion that he saw the paper through, gaining another of his 25 A-plus grades.

While he was notching up A-pluses in some papers, Weatherston dropped out of others.

In an accounting paper, he "threw the towel in".

"They were challenging because they weren't challenging. It's the ordeal of having high expectations," he said.

Things improved through 1996 and 1997, but Weatherston moved at a snail's pace, finally achieving his Bachelor of Commerce in 2000.

"I had to fight my way through an undergraduate degree ... the toughest thing for me was getting an undergraduate degree," he said. "The further on you get, the easier it gets because it's more technical and specialised."

There was more stress in 1998. On July 20 of that year, Weatherston visited Dr Stuart McMain at the university's student health centre for the first time. They discussed his anxiety, and how he was fragile in the face of a challenge. One month later, on August 20, the problem was that his girlfriend of four years was moving to Auckland.

"There was a lot of pressure on me to make a decision as to whether to leave Dunedin and follow her," Weatherston said.

Around this time, Weatherston started taking fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac).

He was becoming a feature of the economics department, having started independent research for a postgraduate diploma at the end of 1999.

In 2002, one of his dissertations yielded the solitary grade on his academic transcript which is not an A plus. It was a mere A. It is this mark, Weatherston says, that defines his academic transcript. "I cried in front of the secretary," Weatherston said. "For me, it was the best piece of work that I had done in the whole degree."

In a second dissertation, his narcissism slipped on to the first page. "As I finish this dissertation there are a few people I would like to thank," Weatherston wrote. "Firstly, myself, for completing this project after a very testing year."

Next to be thanked was Professor Dorian Owen, who was Weatherston's supervisor and closest academic confidant from 2001. Owen, who co-authored papers with Weatherston in 2004 and 2006, says he found Weatherston "fine to get along with".

"He was relatively laid-back and had a reasonable sense of humour," Owen told the court.

Yuleen Weatherston believes her son's health never recovered after a bout of glandular fever in 2003. Weatherston worked for about nine months at the Treasury in Wellington, but returned to Dunedin earlier than expected because of the illness.

"Over the next few years he appeared to fluctuate in terms of his energy and mood," Yuleen Weatherston told Associate Professor Philip Brinded.

Weatherston was now on Prozac.

"I came to have it on a regular basis, which is one tablet every morning, pretty much every morning," he said. (In the three days before he killed Elliott, Weatherston says he upped his dose to three tablets each day.)

In May 2004, he began a new relationship. The woman, who has name suppression, was on the stand for three days at the trial. More than anyone else, she saw both sides of Weatherston's personality.

Weatherston was generous to her, shouldering more than his share of the bills when they lived together in 2006.

"He had a loving, generous side and a nasty and mean demenour on the other," she said. "The private side was a fairly insecure person and someone who could be very mean and someone that got very worked up very easily and wouldn't be able to get over those things."

Late in 2006, Weatherston lost it with her, kicking her and jumping on her, causing her nose to bleed. Weatherston told the court he believed he could have killed her in the incident.

The woman also found out how quickly Weatherston could swing to extremes of mood. After they had parted but remained friends, she accidentally sent him a romantic text message meant for someone else.

Weatherston again lost it, this time ranting and slamming the car door. "He told me that he never wanted to have anything to do with me again. He was absolutely disgusted with me," the woman said.

Next thing, he was back asking her to come to his office to reconcile.

"When I got up there he was bawling, very upset, crying," she said. "He said to me, `You know I love you and I've made such a mess of things'. He basically said to me, `My life's a bit of a mess and I know I've messed up'."

By July 2007, Weatherston's relationship with Elliott was progressing. He reckoned Elliott quickly became obsessed with him, and "was flattered by it".

He was living alone in the flat he had bought for $200,000 in October 2005. Scholarship money for his PhD studies was running out. He says he was feeling lonely and he was anxious to secure a lectureship position that had become available in the economics department.

A former friend says Weatherston "built an empire" around himself during 2007 "where he was the king".

"His whole circle of friends was based around relatively newish PhD students," the former friend said. "Most of them were from overseas and he was someone who had lived in Dunedin all of his life and knew the department and the university well. He was very good at looking after some of the PhD students. I think he genuinely enjoyed helping people like that."

Sarah Forbes, a postgraduate marketing student who had just arrived in Dunedin and knew no-one, was one who benefited.

"In the summer time, Dunedin is basically vacant of students, so when you're new to it you don't really have any people who are friends," Forbes told the court. "They were all good enough to take me in."

She was with scores of others at Weatherston's pre-graduation party at Pequeno, a hip Dunedin bar on December 13, 2007.

Weatherston had submitted his PhD more hurriedly than he had wanted to, but he graduated, becoming Dr Weatherston before Christmas. This was one of many happy occasions around that time and it seems that it was only in the regular bust-ups with Elliott that his darker side was visible.

Yuleen Weatherston noticed her son often reported feeling unwell in the weeks before the killing.

"He was complaining of feeling tired all the time and had stopped his physical activity, in particular aerobics," she told a psychiatric expert.

On December 27, Weatherston raged in what was a final warning of what was to come. Elliott wrote in her diary that he had assaulted her and shouted that he wished her dead.

"Lord, I hardly know where to start. Clayton assaulted me," she wrote. "When I went to leave he went absolutely psycho (no exaggeration at all, I assure you). He told me I'm a f...... horrible person, everyone hates me, I'm f...... ugly, he has never liked me etc, while pinning me down with his entire body on his bed."

Elliott wrote that Weatherston had put his forearm across her throat and put his hand over her mouth to stop people from hearing her yelling at him to get off her. "I confess I was very scared and panicky. I've never had a guy use his weight against me like that ... I knew he was furious and extremely unreasonable," she wrote.

Weatherston accepts he held Elliott down on his bed and shouted at her that he wished a plane she was on had crashed. But he has an account which reflects less critically on himself and not well on her.

By January 7 last year, Weatherston was in overdrive and Elliott seems to have been unwittingly ramping up his gears.

She visited him at his office to give him a cheque for a window she had damaged at his flat. Elliott wound up becoming physically aggressive with him, saying "now we're even".

Weatherston spent all day on January 8 venting to a series of friends about Elliott.

But at a friend's barbecue that night "he seemed fairly normal", a friend who was there said.

"He showed up with the new girl he was seeing and everything seemed fine."

That night, his mother reported that her son "sounded low in mood". He says he was awake for most of the night. By the morning, his birthday, Weatherston had swallowed another three Prozac tablets and gone to work.

Forbes had coffee with him before noon.

"Clayton talked about his family. He talked about the interview for the lecturing position. He talked about his birthday plans and how he was looking forward to that evening," she said. "We were going to catch up and have drinks and go to karaoke. That's what he wanted to do with his friends." Forbes said she brought up the subject of Elliott, asking if he had heard from her.

"He just said `no, no' and changed the subject."

Elliott was on his mind, however. At 11.37am he looked at photos of Elliott on her Facebook page.

He says he went to Elliott's home simply to return gifts and say goodbye before she moved to Wellington the next day.

The trouble started in her bedroom when, he says, Elliott insulted his mother and attacked him with a pair of scissors, knocking his glasses off. He could recall practically nothing of his frenzied response.

The other scenario is that Weatherston's dark side was dominant from at least the moment he left his university office.

The Crown said he sat in Elliott's bedroom without saying a word. When he came back from the bathroom, he killed her.

He brutally stabbed her with a kitchen knife he had brought with him in his laptop bag and then mutilated her lifeless body with a pair of scissors.

After listening to Weatherston's testimony at the trial, Chaplow said it had reinforced his view that Weatherston had features of anxiety disorder and personality features of narcissism and obsessionality.

But he had "suffered no disease of the mind" at the time of the killing.

Weatherston's mother, Elliott and another former girlfriend had all noted a common trait, Chaplow said.

"In spite of good advice from many quarters, he was unable to let go, wanting to have the last word, make his point by humiliation, and so we had the final tragedy," he said.

There was no good verdict for Weatherston no ending other than a miserable one.

Anything about him that was once redeeming is gone, drowned in a bloody pool of disgrace.

"In my work situation, guys talk about it quite a bit. It seems to be a recurring subject at smoko," Moeahu says. "They don't support him at all."

A source at Otago University says Weatherston's performance and Elliott's loss are talked about a lot.

"There's no sympathy for him whatsoever, especially the way he has carried on."

It is understood officers at the Christchurch prison where Weatherston has been held are keen to see the back of him. He was not allowed access to a computer to prepare notes for the trial.

His defence counsel, Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC, admitted that his lack of remorse was not endearing.

During his five days on the stand, Weatherston said he believed Elliott had a contrived legacy.

"And clearly I'm not Sophie's biggest fan because of the relationship, and in my view she is an attempted murderer or [had committed] an attempted assault," he said.

Elliott had been portrayed in a different light compared with his own experiences, he said.

"That's just the way it is. Clearly, in this position that I am in, society moves forward, but I was at that point a little bit frustrated indeed."

If he had lost any semblance of empathy, Weatherston had obviously not lost his powers of perception.

"This is a rough ride and its not looking like getting any easier," he wrote from prison days after the killing.

"Am expecting a lot of ill will."


Weatherston guilty of murder

Sophie's mum breaks down

By John Hartevelt -

July 22, 2009

Clayton Weatherston has been found guilty of the murder of Sophie Elliott.

The jury has just returned its verdict at the High Court in Christchurch.

The verdict was greeted with sighs of relief and joy from the public gallery.

"You're guilty," an Elliott supporter said from the public gallery.

Lesley Elliott, Sophie's mother, broke down immediately after the verdict was delivered.

She embraced her husband Gil Elliott and then remarkably with defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr QC.

Weatherston betrayed little emotion in the dock, twitching his face somewhat when the verdict came down.

Weatherston will be sentenced on September 15.

In comments to The Press before it was delivered the Elliotts  said the five week trial had been "painful".

"It has not been easy to sit daily in court and listen, not only to graphic forensic evidence, but also to distortions and embellishments of the truth about Sophie and her life," the family said in a statement.

Elliott's brother Chris said there was "nothing about the legal process designed to make it any easier on victims."

"We have had no choice but to sit and watch it unfold and hope for the best, whilst he is allowed to talk and pass notes to his legal team any time he wants," Elliott said.

"Our lives will never be the same, but we are fortunate to have the unwavering support of family and friends. They have been our strength."

Weatherston had pleaded guilty to Elliott's manslaughter but not guilty of murder.

He admitted stabbing her 216 times in an attack in the bedroom of her Dunedin home on January 9 last year.

Weatherston said he was provoked by the emotional pain of a tumultuous six month relationship with Elliott and because she had attacked him with a pair of scissors.

Weatherston, 33, was a research fellow at Otago University. He lectured a paper that Elliott, 22, took in 2007.

A source said the trial had been "very traumatic for a lot of people"
at the university's economics department.

"Most people knew both the victim and Clayton," the source said.

"It hasn't been pleasant. You can notice the change in people that haven't been the same since.

"There has been a lot of people in shock."

Old school mates of Weatherston said he had to "serve his time."

Dean Moeahu, who went to Dunedin's Green Island School and Kaikorai Valley High School with Weatherston, told The Press there was no support for him.

"He definitely has to serve his time," Moeahu said.

"From my point of view, I think it was sad for the fact of the parents having to go through the whole trial when it's pretty clear cut."

Another former school mate, who did not want to be named, said there was a lot of sympathy for Weatherston's family.

"You speak to anyone in Green Island, everyone feels very sorry for the whole family, they're devastated and I don't blame them," the man said.


Success accompanied by stress: Weatherston

By Kay Sinclair - Otago Daily Times

July 9, 2009

Murder accused Clayton Weatherston was top of his class through primary and secondary school, enjoyed and excelled at sport and achieved A-plus grades through university, the High Court at Christchurch has heard.

Weatherston (33), a former University of Otago economics lecturer, spent more than two hours in the witness box yesterday afternoon detailing his life before his arrest for killing his ex-girlfriend, Sophie Elliott on January 9 last year.

The accused said he was born and raised in Dunedin, the youngest of three children, was always top of his class at Green Island Primary School, near the top of the class each year at Kaikorai Valley High School and left as dux.

He described his embarrassment when he was 11 and had to get glasses after failing to achieve 100% in a mathematics test.

He had been unable to see the blackboard and the teacher publicly commented on his failure to gain a perfect score.

Weatherston said he was terrified of being teased about his glasses and upset when the optometrist said he would not be able to see what was on his plate by the time he was 19.

It was several months before he would wear his glasses.

But the feared teasing and derision did not happen.

He had been extremely reluctant to leave his mother who had to walk him part of the way to school when he was younger.

He would go through phases of feeling unwell and wanting to come home from school.

He did not want to leave primary school where he was "a big fish in a small pond".

His sister went with him on his first day at Kaikorai Valley High School.

He did not cope well with away trips for sport.

His parents usually came with him and they would stay at motels, while his friends were being billeted.

He won several titles and medals in athletics.

When he finished high school, he felt pressured to go to university but, after two weeks decided to work at an accountancy firm, while continuing undergraduate studies.

He saw his job as a means of providing funding for university, so he would not have to get a student loan.

Weatherston said he began full-time academic studies for a bachelor of commerce degree in 1994, achieving A-plus passes in all but one paper.

But a tendency to over-analyse resulted in illness-causing stress and he had to sometimes sit special exams.

In 2002, he went to the Treasury for nine months but became ill, missing his family and feeling dissatisfied with a job where he was not sure he was being taken seriously.

He had also received offers of funding for Harvard and Princeton universities.

He wanted to come back to Dunedin to be safe, to be close to his mother and to be in a non-challenging situation.

He began seeing a psychotherapist in 2003 and met his girlfriend in 2004, enjoying the relationship, but also feeling insecure and having some concerns.

Weatherston will continue his evidence today.


I killed her, Weatherston told officer at scene

By John Hartevelt -

July 8, 2009

"I killed her," Clayton Weatherston said as he stood over Sophie Elliott's bloodied body, a jury has been told.

The High Court in Christchurch heard yesterday that Weatherston admitted stabbing his former girlfriend with a knife, and using scissors "at the end".

Constable John Cunningham was the first officer at the scene on January 9 last year after Elliott was killed in the bedroom of her Dunedin home.

Weatherston admits manslaughter but denies murder, saying he was provoked.

On the 10th day of Weatherston's trial yesterday, Cunningham said Elliott's mother, Lesley, had told him her daughter was dead. He said he went upstairs to Elliott's bedroom. The door was locked, and he told to the person inside that he would kick it in.

"I then heard the door being unlocked, so I opened the door and stepped into a small bedroom," he said. "I saw in front of me, to my left on the floor of the bedroom, a young Caucasian female covered in blood around her neck and upper torso. I then saw a male standing at the end of the bed next to the body.

"I said to this person, `What have you done?' To which he replied, ' I killed her'."

Cunningham said Weatherston was calm and reserved.

"It appeared that he was not shaking or similar ... he was in a normal state ... in control of himself. He was just standing with his hands by his sides."

Cunningham said Weatherston immediately complied when directed to lie face-down on the floor.

"I then asked him, `Why did you kill her?' He replied, `The emotional pain she has caused me over the past year'."

Cunningham asked Weatherston what he had killed her with, and he said a knife.

He asked where the knife was, and Weatherston had replied: "Probably under her."

He asked Weatherston about a pair of scissors he found between Elliott's legs.

"He replied, `I used them at the end'," Cunningham said.

Outside the house, Cunningham asked Weatherston whose blood was smeared over his arms, legs and face.

Weatherston had replied: "A little bit mine, mostly hers."

Asked who he had killed, Weatherston had said: "It is Sophie Kate Elliott. Eleventh of June, 1985."

Weatherston had two scratches to the left side of his neck, Cunningham said.

Detective John MacDade gave evidence on Weatherston's demeanour on the day Elliott was killed. He said Weatherston was "lucid, coherent, calm and not agitated".

The 11-person jury was shown a video of a police interview with Weatherston. In it, he said: "I have no trouble being honest, [but] I'm not sure if I should have a lawyer here."

With a lawyer present, he declined to answer the allegation he had killed Elliott.

In evidence read to the court, psychiatrist Dr Jubilee Rajiah said she assessed Weatherston on January 9 last year. She believed he was a high risk of suicide and recommended that he be placed under constant observation while in custody.


Sophie 'died from blood loss'

By Kay Sinclair - Otago Daily News

July 7, 2009

Dunedin honours student Sophie Elliott died from blood loss after she was attacked in her bedroom by her ex-boyfriend, the High Court at Christchurch heard yesterday.

Mutilating injuries inflicted on 22-year-old Miss Elliott by Clayton Weatherston, her former economics tutor, were detailed by forensic pathologist Martin Sage on the ninth day of Weatherston's murder trial.

Before Dr Sage gave his evidence, Justice Judith Potter warned the 11 jurors the photographs they would see were "unavoidably graphic".

She asked them to approach the evidence in a dispassionate and clinical way.

Weatherston (33) denies murdering Miss Elliott at her Ravensbourne home on January 9 last year.

He admits her manslaughter.

Dr Sage said he arrived at the Elliott house, with Detective Hamish Barrons and ESR scientist Michael Taylor, about eight hours after the killing.

Miss Elliott's body was lying across a partly-packed open suitcase on the floor of the room.

She had multiple stab wounds to the head, face, neck, arms and lower body, and her white top and cardigan were heavily bloodstained.

When he carried out the postmortem the next morning, Dr Sage found 216 separate injuries, mainly stab wounds caused by a knife blade, with some inflicted with scissors.

There were also seven blunt force injuries where the skin was bruised but not broken.

He found Miss Elliott died from blood loss, two of the wounds to her chest having pierced her heart and one lung, while other injuries to her neck and throat had severed the main artery and the major vein.

Such wounds were "inevitably lethal", even with expert treatment, Dr Sage said, as they would cause "torrential bleeding".

Most of the wounds were in clusters, 11 in all, with an additional 35 wounds, including the blunt force injuries.

There was a scattering of classic defence wounds to Miss Elliott's hands and arms.

"Those indicate, unequivocally, the victim was alive and capable of some activity at least for the initial part of the attack," Dr Sage told the court.

The bulk of the injuries were intended to disfigure.

The number and pattern of the injuries indicated a persistent, determined and focused attack on Miss Elliott, Dr Sage told Crown counsel Robin Bates.

He said it was persistent because of the number of wounds and because the assault must have taken some minutes, and determined because, to inflict so many wounds, the attacker would have to continue with "purposeful activity for some considerable time".

It was focused because many of the wounds were directed at disfiguring the young woman, Dr Sage said.

Defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr QC said she had no questions for Dr Sage.


Weatherston continued stabbing Sophie's dead body

By John Hartevelt -

June 25, 2009

Lesley Elliott says "the whole room seemed to be red," when she walked in to her daughter's room to find Clayton Weatherston stabbing her dead body.

Lesley Elliott is this afternoon continuing evidence in the trial of Clayton Weatherston, who is charged with murdering her daughter, Sophie on January 9 last year.

Elliott gave evidence about what she saw while she was on her cellphone with emergency services.

She said she could remember seeing blood coming from her daughter's eyes.

"I remember that vividly. The whole room seemed to be red," Elliott said.

"The room to me, in my mind, was red."

A record of the 111 phone call said Elliott had indicated Weatherston was standing, but this was not correct, she said.

"I know that he was kneeling because he was stabbing her up and down and his body wasn't moving. He was kneeling over her legs," Elliott said.

Lesley Elliott is this afternoon being cross-examined by defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr.

She has been questioned about aspects of her daughter's past relationships, including a four-year relationship which ended acrimoniously.

Ablett-Kerr suggested Elliott had struck her former boyfriend and scratched him in the face, but Lesley Elliott said she was not aware of that happening.

The defence argues that Weatherston was provoked to kill Elliott. They say Elliott attacked Weatherston with a pair of scissors and that he was provoked by a "torrid and tumultuous" relationship with her.

Weatherston denies the murder charge but yesterday admitted he was guilty of manslaughter.

He allegedly stabbed Elliott more than 200 times in her bedroom on January 9 last year.


Earlier, Lesley Elliott told of watching Weatherston repeatedly stabbing her daughter's already dead body.

Weatherston told Lesley Elliott that he "had something" for her daughter when he arrived at the house.

Soon after, Elliott said she heard her daughter screaming, "don't Clayton," or "stop it Clayton".

Elliott said she "tore upstairs" straight away.

"She just started screaming and screaming and screaming. I tried the door but it was locked," Elliott said.

"I kicked the door and belted it and screamed at Clayton to open it, but he didn't."

"I was belting it and kicking it."

She could not hear anything other than her daughter's screams. Then she fell silent and there was a bumping noise.

Elliott said the thumping sounded like the headboard hitting the wall.

"In my mind, I thought Clayton was raping her," she said.

Elliott said she managed to jimmy the door open and saw her daughter lying dead, with Weathston straddled across her, still stabbing her.

"Sophie was dead. Clayton was still stabbing her," Lesley Elliott said.

"She was lying in the corner of her bedroom, just inside the door. She was dead white and her eyes were staring.

"Clayton continued to stab her in the chest. He was straddled over her legs."

Elliott said she saw Weatherston stabbing her daughter with a knife.

"It was quite obvious. His arm was going up and down like this," she said.

"I thought he was going right through her and that was what the rhythmic noise was."

The court has taken a morning adjournment.


The court this morning heard that Weatherston and Elliott assaulted each other just days before Weatherston killed her.

Lesley Elliott said her daughter came home very upset on December 27 2007, after she had visited Weatherston at his home.

Sophie Elliott had made a photo album with pictures from his graduation, which she wanted to give him as a Christmas gift.

At Weatherston's home, he had asked if they could go to bed and have sex  "or words to that effect," Lesley Elliott said.

"And she said, no Clayton, you're not getting the message, it's over."

Elliott was to move to Wellington to start a job at the Treasury in January 2008. When Elliott spurned Weatherston's advances, he became aggressive.

"She said it's over and she wanted to go. He turned from being very nice to her to someone who was quite nasty," Lesley Elliott said.

"There was a lot of wrestling going on."

Weatherston had his arm up to Elliott's chin and his other arm across her mouth. She was trying to shout. He lost his grip and he ran to the car, Lesley Elliott said.

Weatherston had shouted at Elliott: "When you were coming back from Australia I hoped the plane crashed so you would die."

Elliott had been on holiday in Australia during November 2007.

Lesley Elliott has this morning also described an incident at Otago University, where Sophie Elliott pushed Weatherston in to the same position he had done to her.

She said, "that's what you did to me, and my Mum and my friends have told me I should go to the police."


Mother watches as former university tutor repeatedly stabs her daughter's dead body, court hears

The Sydney Morning Herald

June 25, 2009

A New Zealand mother has told of watching a former university tutor repeatedly stabbing her daughter's already dead body.

At the Christchurch High Court today, Lesley Elliott gave a harrowing account of the final moments of her daughter Sophie's life.

Clayton Weatherston, a former Otago University tutor, is alleged to have killed Sophie Elliott, his student and former girlfriend, in a bedroom attack at her Dunedin home on January 9 last year.

Weatherston denies the murder charge but yesterday admitted he was guilty of manslaughter.

Ms Elliott kept her poise as she gave evidence in a court room charged with atmosphere.

She told the court Weatherston arrived at their home around midday on January 9 last year.

Only Ms Elliott and her daughter were at home.

Weatherston told Ms Elliott that he "had something" for her daughter.

Soon after, Ms Elliott said she heard her daughter screaming, "don't Clayton", or "stop it Clayton".

Elliott said she "tore upstairs" straight away.

"She just started screaming and screaming and screaming. I tried the door but it was locked," Elliott said.

"I kicked the door and belted it and screamed at Clayton to open it, but he didn't.

"I was belting it and kicking it."

She could not hear anything other than her daughter's screams. Then she fell silent and there was a bumping noise.

Ms Elliott said the thumping sounded like the headboard hitting the wall.

"In my mind, I thought Clayton was raping her," she said.

Ms Elliott said she managed to jemmy the door open and saw her daughter lying dead, with Weatherston straddled across her, still stabbing her.

"Sophie was dead. Clayton was still stabbing her," Ms Elliott said.

"She was lying in the corner of her bedroom, just inside the door. She was dead white and her eyes were staring.

"Clayton continued to stab her in the chest. He was straddled over her legs."

Ms Elliott said she saw Weatherston stabbing her daughter with a knife.

"It was quite obvious. His arm was going up and down like this," she said.

"I thought he was going right through her and that was what the rhythmic noise was."

Couple 'traded blows'

Earlier today the court heard Weatherston and Sophie Elliott assaulted each other just days before he allegedly killed her.

Ms Elliott said Sophie came home very upset on December 27, 2007, after she visited Weatherston at his home.

Sophie made a photo album with pictures from his graduation, which she wanted to give him as a Christmas gift.

At Weatherston's home, he asked if they could go to bed and have sex "or words to that effect", Ms Elliott said.

"And she said, no Clayton, you're not getting the message, it's over."

Sophie Elliott was to move to Wellington to start a job at the Treasury in January 2008. When she spurned Weatherston's advances, he became aggressive.

"She said it's over and she wanted to go. He turned from being very nice to her to someone who was quite nasty," Ms Elliott said.

"There was a lot of wrestling going on."

Weatherston had his arm up to Sophie Elliott's chin and his other arm across her mouth. She was trying to shout. He lost his grip and he ran to the car, Ms Elliott said.

Weatherston had shouted at Sophie: "When you were coming back from Australia I hoped the plane crashed so you would die."

Sophie was on holiday in Australia during November 2007.

Ms Elliott also described an incident at Otago University, where Sophie pushed Weatherston into the same position he had put her in.

She said: "That's what you did to me, and my Mum and my friends have told me I should go to the police."


The day Sophie died - mother's untold story

By Lesley Elliott .

June 10, 2011

The frenzied murder of Sophie Elliott by ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston horrified a nation. Today, her mother Lesley Elliott releases her story in the book 'Sophie's Legacy.' Here are extracts:

I knew that Wednesday, 9 January 2008 was going to be a day of mixed emotions as I was helping Sophie with her final packing before she shifted north to Wellington.

She had secured a position at Treasury as a graduate analyst and like her I was excited at the prospects this fulltime job offered.

But this excitement was also tinged with sadness. Sophie was my youngest child and only daughter. Her two brothers, Chris, seven years older and Nick, 11 years older, had already left home to make their way in the world and were living in Melbourne and Sydney respectively.

There was no doubt I was going to miss Sophie terribly. With two boys in Australia and my husband managing the medical laboratory at Dunstan Hospital some 200km away, Sophie and I became more than mother and daughter. We were also friends who shared an extremely close relationship and tomorrow she would be on her way to Wellington, leaving me very much alone.

But our cherished time together was soon shattered in the cruellest way imaginable.

Our home, nestled into a peaceful setting atop a hill and surrounded by beautiful trees and shrubs, overlooks Dunedin Harbour.

The day dawned, the sort of day to really lift one's spirits. We were up early and I helped Sophie make some semblance of order in her bedroom. There were clothes everywhere.

While she got on with packing her clothing, I wrapped fragile things like mirrors, her television set and the like, and boxed them.

Together we carried the full cartons downstairs ready for the removal men who were coming later. Sophie was dressed in a denim miniskirt, white shirt and shirt-sleeved white cardigan. She looked gorgeous, as she always did.

At one stage I walked past her bedroom door and noticed her putting on makeup.

"Are you going out?" I asked. Sophie had a reputation for being late but on this occasion, her last chance to be with her closest friends, she wanted to be on time for a pizza together at the beach later that day. She knew with all the packing ahead she should take the chance to get ready, even if the meeting was hours away. She looked up and said something endearing, though I can't for the life of me recall what it was.

However, it was enough to bring me to tears.

Sophie asked me what was wrong and I told her I was going to miss her so much. She said she would come home to visit regularly and had even arranged to be here for Easter. She came over and gave me a big hug.

That was the last hug we had.

A few minutes later I was in the kitchen having just listened to the midday news on the radio. There was a knock at the door. I looked out the window and couldn't see a car in the drive so peered around to see Clayton Weatherston standing there.

I was surprised as he had always parked in the driveway before. I opened the door cautiously. He had a grin on his face. "Is Sophie in? I have something for her."

Sophie had heard the knock and was on the upper landing. She mouthed down to me, "Who is it?" I mouthed back that it was Clayton. She shrugged her shoulders and raised her eyes to the ceiling but continued coming down the stairs.

I opened the door wider and he came in. I didn't hear what he said but recall Sophie saying she was really busy and running late. If he wanted to talk it would have to be in her room while she continued packing.

I returned to the kitchen and then remembered his recent assaults on Soph. I began to shake and wondered what I should do.

Sophie's bedroom is directly above the kitchen and normal conversation can be heard as faint murmuring with any raised voices heard easily.

I felt apprehensive and instinctively turned off the radio. I didn't want to interfere as I knew Sophie would be angry with me. I listened but I couldn't hear anything, not even a murmur.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs and still heard not a sound. It wouldn't have been more than five minutes when I heard the bathroom door close and Sophie appeared in the kitchen. I said, "What's going on?"

Sophie said, "I don't know what he wants. He's just sitting there not saying a word."

I told her to get rid of him as she was running late and had heaps to do before going out. I suggested that maybe he just wanted to make amends over the assaults and ensure she wasn't going to report him to the police. The toilet flushed and Sophie said I was probably right and she would get him to go.

She went up the stairs and I heard the door close. This was followed by a terrible scream and Sophie shouting, "Don't Clayton, don't Clayton."

I tore up the stairs and heard Sophie screaming and screaming. It was the most ungodly noise.

I kicked and belted at the door and told him to open it but he didn't. I had to get in so raced back to the kitchen to get a meat skewer and my cellphone. And as I raced back up the stairs I dialled 111, but have no recollection of doing so.

The door handle had a small hole in it as a safety measure to release the locking mechanism. While I was trying to steady my hands to get the skewer into the tiny hole, I could hear a rhythmic thumping.

I immediately thought Clayton was raping Sophie on the bed and it was the headboard banging against the wall. She was still screaming and screaming. It just went on and on.

I heard Sophie make two gasping sounds - then no more noise other than this horrible thumping.

On getting the door open I saw poor Sophie lying on the floor and I knew instantly she was dead.

Weatherston was kneeling, sort of straddled over her, stabbing her violently in the chest. Not pausing, he continued stabbing Sophie with his right hand while pushing the door closed with his left. He never said a word.

The right side of Sophie's face and neck had been viciously stabbed and she looked strange.

Although the room was already covered in blood, Sophie was a stark white colour. You don't go white that quickly when you die but the savagery of his attack was such that Sophie had lost a massive amount of blood very rapidly. Her major arteries and veins had been severed and the forensic pathologist described the blood loss as "torrential bleeding that was inevitably lethal".

On the 111 call I can be heard scratching to get the skewer into the door handle, opening the door and being confronted by the unimaginably horrible sight. You then hear me screaming, "He's killed her," before hearing the door being shut.

The police call taker told me to leave the house. Sophie was by then beyond help so I rushed downstairs and fled along the driveway towards the street. I vainly thought of who could help, where could I run to?

The house next door was unoccupied and the couple living directly opposite were medical professionals, barely ever home. Another neighbour is an ex-policeman and in my panic I tried to make for sanctuary there. But I only made it to the end of the drive. My legs could carry me no further and I collapsed on to the grass verge.

I know I was being irrational on the phone. I've had to sit in court and endure it being played back.

It was simply horrendous and I don't ever want to hear it again.

If anyone is under any illusion about the evilness of what that man was doing to my daughter, they would be shattered hearing my conversation with the police control room communicator. It was so compelling that after it was played at the depositions there wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom.

When it came to the High Court trial, Weatherston's counsel, Judith Ablett Kerr, would successfully argue for the 111 call evidence to be suppressed from the jury - not because it was too emotional to listen to, but because it would be overly prejudicial to her client.

I find this difficult to comprehend. What happened and what was said was reality. This took place. But it was too prejudicial? Unbelievable!

Normally I'm level-headed, rational and calm in a crisis. But this was so different.

Sitting on the grass verge by the roadside, it seemed ages before the first constable arrived. I know I had yelled at the call taker to hurry up.

I know how long it takes to get to our place from town and as the minutes ticked by, the time dragged slowly. Because we live in a no-exit, few cars or people pass by.

In those excruciating minutes no one came into sight. I was all alone, terrified, agonising that I couldn't help Sophie and, on reflection, vulnerable.

There I was, collapsed on the grass shaking and crying uncontrollably, right behind Weatherston's car.

Curiously he'd not only parked his car on the roadside but had left it facing uphill towards the no-exit part of the street. Obviously he had given no thought to escaping quickly.

It doesn't bear thinking about what a dangerous situation I would have been in had he returned to his car before the police arrived.

When Constable John Cunningham arrived on the scene I even yelled at him. He was alone and quickly asked me what happened and where.

The last I saw of him he was running down the drive.

At that time it didn't register with me that this unarmed officer was going to confront a clearly deranged person with a large knife.

On reflection, John shouldn't have even gone into the house alone but he thought it was "just another domestic". I heard him give his evidence and the way he handled the situation is a credit to himself and the police. In that evidence he said that after I'd told him Sophie was dead he went straight to her bedroom and tried to get him. The door was locked so John called for it to be opened or he would kick it in.

To me Weatherston's demeanour then, and what he later was reported to have said at the police station, is quite extraordinary given what he had just done to Sophie.

I've been told that he was lucid, coherent, calm and not agitated. The same couldn't have been said of me.

The next thing I remember is frantic activity. Within moments a St John station wagon arrived with resuscitation gear.

I remember pleading with the paramedic to save Sophie but I absolutely knew she was dead. I knew from the moment I opened her bedroom door. Then an ambulance and about five more police cars arrived.

If I yelled at any of them, and I'm sure I did, I apologise.

An ambulance officer came to me and I said my mouth was dry. She brought me a bottle of water. I asked her to tell me Sophie was dead; I felt I just needed confirmation.

Much of that time is a blur to me but some things are quite vivid. It was the strangest sensation: I could see people yet I couldn't see; they were shapes rather than distinct people. I saw the ambulance officer talking to others and I now know they were discussing whether or not to tell me.

The paramedic first on the scene had come outside so it was pretty obvious that Sophie was beyond help. I knew then that I'd lost my daughter - my friend.

Ambulance staff wanted to take me to the hospital, but I refused. Despite being in shock I was steady in my resolve to stay at my home.



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