A jury has found former Otago University tutor Clayton Weatherston guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend Sophie Elliott.

The jury returned its verdict at the High Court in Christchurch about 11.20am.

Weatherston, 33, was charged with the murder of Ms Elliott, 22, in Dunedin on January 9 last year. Weatherston accepted he was guilty of manslaughter, but denied the charge of murder.

Members of Sophie Elliott's family and supporters erupted in a cheer as the guilty verdict was delivered today.

One person shouted out "yes" and another said "you beauty" and one "well done" - directed towards the jury.

Ms Elliott's immediate family sobbed and hugged in the public gallery and outside the courtroom.

Weatherston showed little emotion as the verdict was delivered.

Outside court, Sophie Elliott's mother Lesley said her family was really, really pleased with the verdict.

"It was the right decision, it's been a long 18 months for us and we needed to see justice for Sophie, for her loss of life, and also for a lot of other girls that may be in that position.

She said sitting through the trial had been hard "because obviously we were going over the events of the ninth of January [2008] and I was there".

Clayton Weatherston's father, Roger Weatherston, said Clayton was their son and brother.

"We loved him very much and will continue to do so, we were shocked for what he did and couldn't understand it as it was out of the character of the person we knew.

"We have been grateful for the opportunity to listen to the evidence at the trial and now have some understanding of this terrible event.

"We are very sad, we did not recognise that Clayton needed the help that he clearly does and hope that now at least he will receive it.

"Our thoughts are very much with the Elliott family and their tremendous loss."

National disgrace

Women's Refuge described the trial as a "national disgrace" which gave Weatherston the opportunity to persecute Miss Elliott and her family after her death.

"This trial turned justice inside out - the killer became the victim and Sophie Elliot was portrayed to us all as he chose to describe her," chief executive Heather Henare said after the verdict.

"Unfortunately for Clayton Weatherston, the jury didn't buy it and nor did the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who watched him giggling on their televisions."

Summing up yesterday, Justice Judith Potter told the jury there were two main issues for them to consider.

She said the Crown needed to prove whether Weatherston had murderous intent when he killed Miss Elliott, his former girlfriend and student.

Justice Potter said if they proved that, the jury also had to look at whether or not the Crown had proved Weatherston was not acting under provocation. She said it was a pivotal issue in the case.

After retiring to consider their verdict about 1pm yesterday the jury returned to seek further direction from Justice Potter.

The trial

The prosecution said Weatherston was clearly in control when he fatally stabbed and cut Miss Elliott 216 times, and that he failed to take any responsibility or show any remorse since.

"I'm sure everybody in this court would turn back the clock if they could," prosecutor Robin Bates told the High Court at Christchurch yesterday.

"There's no indication, from this accused, that is what he would do."

But Weatherston's defence team argued he suffered from a personality disorder that did not allow him to say sorry, and it was this character, combined with scientific evidence, that meant he could not be convicted of murder.

"He went on stabbing this young lady long after she was dead. That's not the action of a man who the Crown would say was normal," said Weatherston's lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC. "This was the action of a man who had totally lost it."

She argued that Weatherston was a "coiled spring" after a torrid relationship with Ms Elliott.

But Mr Bates said Weatherston had lied and sought to "rewrite the script" of the killing and incidents beforehand where it is alleged he assaulted Ms Elliott.

Nothing said or done by Ms Elliott deprived Weatherston of self-control. Ms Elliott's mother, Lesley Elliott, was in the house when her daughter was killed and all she heard was her daughter saying, "Stop it, Clayton" or "Don't, Clayton," and frightened screams.

Mrs Elliott was unable to unlock her daughter's bedroom door as the attack was taking place, which was the result of Weatherston locking it, Mr Bates said.

"The die is cast, the decision is made when he locks the door."

But Mrs Ablett-Kerr said of Mrs Elliott's testimony: "What she saw on that day, and the trauma she went through must, unfortunately, make her a less than reliable witness as far as detail is concerned."

The comment drew gasps from the public gallery, and caused some of the Elliott family to walk from the court.

Mr Bates on Monday questioned the extent of Weatherston's narcissism and personality disorders, as outlined by two defence psychiatrists.

This prompted a sharp response from Mrs Ablett-Kerr, who said experts at the top of their fields had given evidence and it was not for Mr Bates to raise doubt after the fact.

- with Newstalk ZB, NZPA