Victims have say at Weatherston sentencing

By Jarrod Booker

Sophie Elliott's killer, Clayton Weatherston, will wait at least 18 years before he is freed. Photos / The Press, supplied
Sophie Elliott's killer, Clayton Weatherston, will wait at least 18 years before he is freed. Photos / The Press, supplied

The setting was the same. The faces were the same. But this time it was not all about Clayton Weatherston.

After a month-long murder trial in which Weatherston, 33, spent hours bragging about his achievements and attacking the character of his dead victim, he was silenced in the same Christchurch courtroom yesterday while Sophie Elliott's family had their say.

Ms Elliott's father Gil stood only a couple of metres away as he told Weatherston he was the "epitome of evil".

Weatherston glanced upward only briefly, unwilling to hold the gaze of the man he had robbed of a daughter.

The former Otago University economics tutor looked back down, where his eyes stayed for most of the two-hour session before he was sentenced to serve at least 18 years in prison for murdering his former girlfriend, Ms Elliott, 22, by stabbing her 216 times.

It fell to his lawyer to make a last-ditch attempt to express the remorse that had been lacking since Ms Elliott was murdered in her bedroom in her Dunedin home on January 9 last year.

"He tells me that he is sorry. But he saw no point in saying it himself because it would appear contrived," Judith Ablett Kerr, QC, told the court.

But the apology seemed a hollow one. Weatherston still maintains Ms Elliott attacked him first with a pair of scissors - something Ms Elliott's family say he must have "dreamed up".

And Weatherston still tried to make it about him.

Mrs Ablett Kerr: "He understands that people do not see that he is remorseful ... but what he said to me yesterday is 'they don't see me in my cell at 2am in the morning, when I think about the horrendous thing that occurred'."

The Elliotts were not buying his apology for a second.

"That guy has never shown any remorse. He never pleaded guilty and he's never said sorry, so no, we don't believe that," Mr Elliott said.

Weatherston's trademark smirks were absent yesterday, but there were no signs of tears for his victim.

He occasionally looked puzzled or unimpressed at things that had been said.

Only when his father spoke did he shed a tear.

When Justice Judith Potter ordered him to stand and passed sentence on him, he simply nodded in acknowledgement, and was led away.

Ms Elliott's family, dignified and immaculately presented as always, earlier spoke of their shattered lives - how they were barely able to work, sleep or relate to each other any more, as their supporters quietly sobbed in the public gallery.

After Ms Elliott's death, her cat would often be found in her bedroom, sitting under her bed or on the floor waiting for her, her mother Lesley Elliott said.

"He grew thin, and lost his enthusiasm for life. And he even missed her teasing. She would pick him up on his back, and he would give her a peck on the nose. No one else could do this. He died a month after her."

Mr Elliott said the undertaker warned him against seeing his daughter's body after what Weatherston had done to her.

"Can you imagine what it feels like? She was so badly mutilated that people were advising us not to see her."

Mrs Elliott said she could never forgive Weatherston after walking in on him murdering her daughter.

"I hope her screams of agony ring in your ears, as they do mine ... you took her life in a cowardly and despicable manner," she told him.

Ms Elliott's brother, Chris, said: "Whether I like it or not, Clayton Weatherston will always feature prominently in my thoughts. Because he's the man who killed my sister."

Weatherston's father, Roger Weatherston, told the court that his son had a normal upbringing in an "honest, law-abiding family".

"I'm hoping that Clayton will find it within himself to publicly show remorse ... We will always love and support our son."

In imposing the sentence, Justice Judith Potter said the attack on Ms Elliott was in the worst category of murder. The whole of New Zealand had been affected by it.

Outside court, Mr Elliott said of the sentence: "Life ought to be life, of course, like it is in America. But unfortunately it's not in New Zealand. So I guess 18 years is probably reasonable in the circumstances."

Among those in court yesterday was Kristin Dunne-Powell, who has joined forces with Lesley Elliott to campaign against domestic violence after her own taste of it from broadcaster Tony Veitch.

Several jurors from Weatherston's trial also watched the sentencing.

- NZ Herald

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