Kerre Woodham: Murderous butcher too evil to watch

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Over the years, few court cases have got under my skin as much as Clayton Weatherston's trial. That's probably because from the sounds of it, Lesley Elliott had the same sort of relationship with her daughter, Sophie, that I have with mine. A loving relationship. An honest one. A relationship full of fun and common interests and one that you imagine will sustain you for years to come.

Except in Lesley's case, she's had her girl taken from her in the worst possible way. Clayton Weatherston stabbed Sophie in her own bedroom in the family home, and then he mutilated her. Lesley was there throughout the attack, locked outside the bedroom, powerless to help the girl she loved most in the world, and the pain of that must be crippling.

She didn't recognise evil when it came to the door because she and her family are decent people who believe in the inherent good of others. Weatherston, on the other hand is a sick, self-indulgent psycho, and the ugly man with the ugly soul forced the Elliott family to suffer right to the bitter end.

During the trial, Sophie's family had to hear her name and character smeared in the worst possible way. And for what? Weatherston didn't deny he killed her. He just wanted to trash Sophie one last time. His lawyers dressed it up as provocation. In the words of Weatherston's lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, "he was provoked by the emotional pain of a torrid and tumultuous relationship with Miss Elliott, which he was ill-equipped to deal with".

What complete bullshit. And just on Ablett-Kerr, her describing Lesley Elliott "an unreliable witness" was appalling. As if the aberrant freak she was defending WAS reliable?

Weatherston stabbed Sophie 216 times. He slashed her eyes, her breasts, her genitals, her cheek and her throat. He cut off her nose and cut off the tips of her ears. He destroyed that beautiful, sparkling-eyed, clever and vivacious girl and the fact he didn't destroy her family is testimony to their strength and their love.

How can it be right that stabbing somebody 216 times, then mutilating them with a knife you brought to the house, constitutes manslaughter? I couldn't bear to watch Weatherston after the first night of his testimony - his performance revolted me and I relied on the radio and newspapers for the court reports after that.

Weatherston claimed that Sophie was difficult; that because of his relationship with her - he was her tutor; she was his student - his academic career was ruined; that she humiliated him by laughing about their sex life - or lack thereof. His failings were not Sophie's. She was everything that the bedwetting, pill-popping, penis-envying psycho was not and he couldn't bear it. Simple as that.

In his lifetime, Weatherston has been an accounts clerk, an aerobics instructor, the mascot for the Otago rugby team and a 33-year-old tutor. Hardly the glittering CV of a savant. His boss testified that Weatherston's failure to get an academic posting at the university had nothing to do with Sophie. He was never a contender because he was unlikeable and not nearly as clever as he thought he was.

Weatherston being top of the class in primary school makes him as much of a genius as being second runner-up in the Miss Junior Whangamata in 1972 makes me a beauty.

Still, where he's gone, there'll be plenty of people to condescend to and sneer at. And when he's done doing that, he can work through his penis size obsession by comparing with the boys from C Block - although trying to manipulate and control a 130kg gang member might not be as easy as bullying a 21-year-old girl.

This trial was a farce. The evidence was crystal clear and to allow the trial to proceed on that pink-eyed, posturing pervert's terms played right into his hands.

For the Elliotts to have to sit there and listen as Weatherston simpered and minced and prevaricated and tried to paint himself as a long-suffering boyfriend saddled with a high-maintenance girlfriend, and much worse, is sickening and more than they should have to bear. The law had to change - because of this trial and because of the number of men who've invoked homosexual panic, and successfully claimed provocation.

Justice Minister Simon Power assures us the provocation as defence provision was always going to be removed but it will probably be forever remembered as Sophie's legacy.

Much has been made of the fact that Weatherston stabbed Sophie 216 times. We need to add one more wound to that. By allowing this man to take the stand and attempt to butcher this gorgeous girl's reputation, he stuck the knife into her one more time.

Thank God the legal system is changing to prevent another family suffering as the Elliotts have done.

- Herald on Sunday

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