Sophie Elliott's mum offers support for family

By Kristin Edge -
Lesley Elliottt, mother of Sophie. Photo / Lynda Feringa
Lesley Elliottt, mother of Sophie. Photo / Lynda Feringa

The mother of Sophie Elliott, who was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, is backing a Northland family's stance against domestic violence following their tragic loss.

As the Elliott family of Dunedin commemorated the death of Sophie five years ago last Wednesday, the McGrath family of Whangarei were dealing with the devastating loss of 34-year-old Patricia Ann McGrath, nicknamed Wowo.

The mother of two died in Whangarei Hospital on January 8, four days after she was allegedly assaulted in her Kamo home.

The Whangarei case prompted Lesley Elliott to contact the Northern Advocate, expressing her support for the McGrath family.

"My deepest sympathy on the loss of your loved one ... We are five years down the track and the grief is as strong now as it was then. We lost a beautiful person, as you have," Mrs Elliott said.

"I am deeply saddened by these events. I know exactly how they will be feeling ... it won't be easy."

In 2008, Sophie Elliott, 22, was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Clayton Weatherston at her mother's house. The former Otago University tutor admitted stabbing Ms Elliott 216 times but argued he had been provoked.

Weatherston is serving at least 18 years in jail, after he was found guilty of murder.

Mrs Elliott said that, since the death of her daughter, her mission had been to spread the word that domestic abuse was not okay, through the education of young people about safe and unsafe relationships.

"I totally support the 'It's okay to ask for help' White Ribbon campaign and ask others to do the same," Mrs Elliott said.

"White Ribbon is about men supporting men to be against abuse against women.

"Being good role models and supporting men who want to change their behaviour. I truly believe it is men who hold the answer, good role models can support other men to change their behaviours."

Mrs Elliott was impressed that the McGrath family had spoken out and had distributed about 400 white ribbons at Saturday's tangi for the 34-year-old.

"The more people who are speaking out, the better. It's frustrating that we have already been working on getting the message out about domestic violence and there is another death.

"It's not an easy job and it's a long road. But if people like the McGraths have the strength to stand up and talk, there will be long-term benefits for everyone," she said.

The McGrath family were still at Korokota Marae at Titoki, where they buried Patricia McGrath, and were touched Mrs Elliott was backing them in their anti-violence campaign.

John McGrath said he would be contacting Mrs Elliott.

"One thing I feel is we can't put our loved ones in a hole and walk away. We are the ones who have been cheated," he said.

Phillip Andre Mahanga, 32, has been charged with assaulting Ms McGrath and been remanded in custody until January 21, when more serious charges are likely to be laid by police.

The family said Ms McGrath and Mahanga had been in an on again, off again relationship for 14 months.

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