Chilling murderer caused nationwide revulsion

By Andrew Koubaridis

In part four of his series on the big trials of 2009, Andrew Koubaridis looks back on the Clayton Weatherston case

Sophie Elliott. Photo / Supplied
Sophie Elliott. Photo / Supplied

If his brutal crime wasn't enough to shock the nation, his demeanour during his trial caused revulsion in homes everywhere.

Clayton Weatherston never denied killing his former girlfriend, Sophie Elliott.

But he denied he was guilty of murder, claiming she had provoked him.

He stabbed her more than 200 times in her family home in Dunedin, but told the High Court at Christchurch he was glad to be free of the relationship and likened Ms Elliott to a fantasist who saw the pair as characters from Pride and Prejudice.

Of Ms Elliott he said: "Clearly I'm not Sophie's biggest fan because of the relationship we had, and in my view she's an attempted murderer or attempted a serious assault."

He said he didn't intend to kill her on January 9, 2008, and blamed his own psychological make-up for losing all control when Ms Elliott allegedly taunted him and attacked him with a pair of scissors.

He admitted "playing a part" in the death but did not show a shred of remorse in the witness stand.

And his self-confessed antipathy towards Ms Elliott while she was alive clearly remained long after her death.

He told the court he was frustrated Otago University had set up a trust in her honour and complained about her "contrived legacy".

"I think she fervently wanted to have an interesting life, and part of that was engaging in an element of melodrama."

But the Crown wasn't distracted by the sideshow and pointed out Weatherston's hatred of Ms Elliott and how he spoke of that the day before he killed her.

Prosecutors said his psychological problems did not explain his actions that day in the Elliotts' Dunedin house.

If it was possible, Weatherston's performance in court temporarily moved his crime from centre stage.

His character assassination of Ms Elliott - delivered as her grief-stricken family sat in the courtroom - outraged New Zealanders, who did not think it was fair for families to have to endure seeing their loved one's name slandered.

He was convicted and sentenced to life in jail. That is now the subject of an appeal.

But after the trial, Justice Minister Simon Power changed the law to remove provocation as a legitimate defence for murder.

CLAYTON WEATHERSTON
Where: High Court at Christchurch.
When: June.
Charge: One count of murder.
Verdict: Guilty.
Sentence: Life in prison (18-year minimum).

- NZ Herald

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