Sophie Elliott's father says his heart is with Grace Millane's grief-stricken family as he opens up about how parents of homicide victims never fully recover from the loss and the trauma of attending the trial.
Sophie, a 22-year-old high-achieving University of Otago student, was killed by her ex-boyfriend Clayton Weatherston in the Elliott's Dunedin family home in January 2008.
Weatherston, who had been an economics tutor at the university, was later found guilty of murder and given a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years.
Yesterday, as Grace's family prepare to return to the UK, Sophie's much-loved father Gil Elliott said he had huge empathy and sympathy for what they would be enduring.
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"You get on and try and do your best but it is never the same," he told the Weekend Herald. "I certainly feel for Grace's parents, siblings and wider family.
"The trauma [of losing a child to homicide] is bad enough.
"And for these poor parents to come all the way from England, I really feel for them. You would just like to be there for them and to hold their hand. That is how [I] feel about it because you know damned well what they have been going through.
"It is such a traumatic event that you just don't get over it. It is such a hole in your life."
Elliott said he had followed the Millane trial closely, drawing some similarities between the defence strategy run by both Weatherston's lawyers and the legal team working for Millane's killer.
Elliott died from blood loss after suffering more than 200 wounds – including two which pierced her heart and a lung, as well as having her throat severed – which were inflicted by Weatherston armed with a knife and scissors.
But during the case, his lawyers argued a defence of provocation. Lead defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr QC stated Weatherston was provoked by the emotional pain of his "torrid and tumultuous" relationship with Elliott.
The defence team also claimed Elliott had tried to attack him with a pair of scissors and he responded, losing self-control.
Speaking a decade on from the trial, he said there were similarities to how he believed lawyers acting for both his daughter's murderer and Grace's killer had tried to put the victims "on trial".
In the Millane case, that revolved around the defence line that the 21-year-old British backpacker was interested in BDSM – including simulated strangulation - and her death had been the result of a sexual act gone wrong.
Elliott said he believed what had happened in both trials was a form of "revictimisation". Neither victims were able to defend what had been said about them in court.
"I have been reading about the case and I am certainly feeling bad for the parents," he said. "I knew what they were going to have to go through as you sit there, and you have no input whatsoever, and you listen to all these things said about your child.
"There is no way that you can't challenge it. The victim's family have no input and have to listen to all this stuff coming out that you have never heard of.
"The victim has no representation, none at all. That is something that victim's families find hard, that nobody is there for their child, for their loved one.
"We got about to two-thirds of our case and we really thought it was going to be manslaughter because the defence were doing such a 'good' job of defending Weatherston. Fortunately it wasn't."
He urged Millane's family, and her mother "particularly", to "ignore some of the stuff being said".
The pain Millane's loved ones have been suffering was evident on just the second day of her killer's trial, as her mother, Gillian, left the Auckland High Court in tears after it was revealed naked photos had been taken of her daughter's body.
Elliott said while families had the choice to not attend trials, the need for an answers made that an unlikely decision in most cases.
"Most parents would want to go and find out what happened. There are a lot of things you simply don't know about," he said.
"It is as painful as hell, but you need to know exactly what was going on."
During Weatherston's trial, he said the toughest aspects included the defence's claims of provocation and testimony from the pathologist who examined Sophie's body, saying that "was pretty horrible to hear".
And, being thrust into a court room environment – which Elliott said was "very intimidating" to those who hadn't previously been exposed to it – was another major source of stress.
"It is very painful," he said.
"You are in the public gallery and the public takes up most of the seats, not the family who need or want to know [what happened]. But you get all these other people who want to go . . . the police call them 'cabbage throwers', harking back to the old days of people in the stock when people threw cabbages and tomatoes at them."
During the Weatherston trial Sophie's parents were reserved seats in the front row of the public gallery at the Christchurch High Court.
Just in front of them was their daughter's murderer, who was sitting alongside his defence team.
"He probably wouldn't have been more than a metre and a half away from me," Elliott said.
"He was so bloody close if I had of had a knife, I could have poked him in the back ... something that I certainly felt I would like to do, that is for real."
Since his daughter's death, Elliott has been involved in providing support for numerous other families who have endured the agony of losing a loved one to homicide, and then the harsh realities of life which follow.
He urged the Millanes to surround themselves with love and kindness on their return to the UK, but added life would never return to what it was before.
"It is not an easy one to recover from. In fact, you don't recover from it. Your life just sets off on a different track," Elliott said.
"Just like them [with Grace], I think about Sophie every day and I know my family does, too. Her brother in Melbourne says to me he often dreams about her."