Murder cuts short life of brilliant student (+ photos)

By Sarah Harvey, Debbie Porteous

A brilliant economics student on the verge of starting a new career at the Treasury was stabbed to death by a former boyfriend who burst into her family's home days after making violent threats.

Lesley and Gilbert Elliott should have been putting their bright, beautiful young daughter Sophie, 22, on a plane to Wellington yesterday to start her new life. Instead, they were planning her funeral.

A week after threatening violence against her, the man now accused of her murder entered her Dunedin home and assaulted her with a weapon, Detective Senior Sergeant Croudis said yesterday.

The attack took place on the man's 32nd birthday.

Miss Elliott's mother, who was home at the time but in another room, called 111, but her daughter died minutes later.

Shortly before that, a lone policeman, responding to the emergency call, entered the family's house and arrested the attacker.

The officer's efforts were yesterday praised by Mr Croudis, who said his "swift and concise" actions in detaining the attacker had prevented anyone else being injured.

He would not elaborate on details of the attack and the weapon used would not be identified until a scene examination and an autopsy were complete.

Mr Croudis said Miss Elliott had gone out with the man who attacked her for three or four months, but the relationship had ended, although he did not know when.

The 32-year-old man charged with the murder was remanded in custody when he appeared in Dunedin District Court yesterday.

His lawyer, Len Andersen, asked that the man be remanded for a week and said he was not seeking bail. He also requested interim suppression of the man's name.

Judge Paul Kellar remanded the man to next Thursday and granted interim suppression.

Sophie's father Gilbert Elliott said: "She is the last person I would have expected that to happen to."

Her school friends said she was their "little diamond", a girl with talent and an infectious personality.

Mr Elliott, a scientist, spoke of a strong-willed, popular young woman who was "hard to criticise".

"She was a lovely girl. Very helpful and loving. Just a bit too trusting. But a lot of young people are these days."

Mr Elliott said the family - Miss Elliott has two older brothers who live in Australia - were pulling together after the violent death on Wednesday of their youngest child. "We're holding up, I suppose. It was such an awful shock."

His daughter played piano, loved music and drama and had recently developed an interest in photography.

Miss Elliott had been living at home for the past few weeks while she prepared to leave for Wellington, where she was to take up a "plumb" job at the Treasury, which she was "very" excited about, Mr Elliott said.

"She did well at university. She got A+s all the way through and got [a first class honours degree] in economics. "She was meant to graduate in May."

Others yesterday joined the Elliotts in sharing their grief.

Lindsay Tustin and Jess Smith had been friends with Miss Elliott throughout high school at St Hilda's Collegiate, in Dunedin, and said she had excelled both academically and culturally.

"She loved her friends, and she loved her life, and was so looking forward to going to Wellington. She loved everything she did," Miss Smith said.

She had all her outfits lined up for her first week of work at the treasury and her shoes shined, they said.

Her employer, Steve Wellington, from Spectrum Photos in the Golden Centre Mall, said staff at the store where Miss Elliott worked part time were devastated.

The staff were a "close-knit" group, and many were close friends of Miss Elliott's.

They had learned the news after she didn't turn up to drinks on Wednesday night, he said.

He described Miss Elliott as a "beautiful, energetic, young lady".

"She got on with everybody.

"This is a real, true tragedy ... of someone so young with a full life ahead of her."

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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