Shortland Street stalker storyline shocks fans, family

By Rachel Grunwell

Shortland Street's Kimberley Crossman said the storyline wasn't based on Clayton Weatherston and Sophie Elliott's tragic relationship. Photo / 	Janna Dixon
Shortland Street's Kimberley Crossman said the storyline wasn't based on Clayton Weatherston and Sophie Elliott's tragic relationship. Photo / Janna Dixon

A Shortland Street storyline in which a university lecturer stalks a character named Sophie is closely mirroring the horrifying real-life Sophie Elliott saga, shocking some family members and fans of the popular programme.

Former University of Otago tutor Clayton Weatherston, 33, was jailed for a minimum of 18 years last September for murdering his former girlfriend Sophie Elliott in a crime that shocked the nation.

Weatherston stabbed and cut the stunning 22-year-old Dunedin student 216 times in January 2008 after a short, controlling and abusive relationship.

During his trial he revolted Kiwis by trying to claim she had provoked his murderous rage.

Sophie Elliott's Auckland-based cousin Linda Curtis said she had recently stopped sobbing "every other day" over losing her cousin in such horrific circumstances but the TV2 weeknight drama had made her "re-live" the nightmare.

Shortland Street student Sophie McKay, played by Kimberley Crossman, had recently entered into an on-screen relationship with lecturer Ash Fuller (Bryce Langston), which has been short, controlling and abusive.

Viewers have been left wondering what terrible things might happen to Sophie.

Curtis said she had found the storyline "upsetting"; that the writers of the show had "used Sophie's storyline" and she believed it was in "poor taste" they did not contact the Elliott family to warn them.

Many of the murder victim's friends were in the show's target audience, 18-39-years, and should have had the chance to "brace themselves", she said.

"They could've let Sophie's family know what they were intending to do," she said. She felt the story was taken "too far" using a character by the same name.

Sophie Elliott's mother, Lesley Elliott, said people had told her they were "surprised" the show had used "our story".

She watched it this week and it felt "close to the bone".

She and Curtis hoped a positive could come out of both the Sophie stories - that young women would get out of psychologically abusive relationships and go to the police.

Curtis said the show could have taken the story seriously and listed in the credits help agencies women could contact.

Crossman said she has had feedback on Twitter about the closeness of the storylines.

She said she was sure the writers did not pen a story based on the real life murder as "they're not insensitive".

Shortland Street's producer, Steven Zanoski, said they had not used the Elliott case as inspiration; instead it was "a classic storyline".

He said he had noted some internet conversations about the similarities of the stories and understood it was "raw" for some to view - "especially for people in the South Island".

The issue became apparent while shooting the scenes about two months ago and they decided to "deviate" from their initial plan.

He said the stories were being connected more than they hoped because their character was called Sophie.

He was satisfied the storyline had veered enough away from the Elliott case.

Clayton Weatherston's mother, Yuleen, said she had not seen the show.

She also did not know if her son had watched in prison.

- Herald on Sunday

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