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Sophie Elliott

On 9 January 2008, 22-year-old Sophie Kate Elliott was stabbed to death by ex-boyfriend Clayton Robert Weatherston (born 9 January 1976), in Dunedin, New Zealand.[1][2][3] The crime and trial were covered extensively in the news media, and contributed to the government abolishing the partial defence of provocation.[4][5][6]



The relationship had lasted for around six months prior to her death; in court, witnesses described it as troubled. Weatherston had been an economics tutor at the University of Otago, and also taught Elliott, who completed an honours degree in economics. On the day she died, she was packing to relocate to Wellington the next day, and start a job at the New Zealand Treasury.[7]


At around 12:30 pm on 9 January 2008, Sophie Elliott and her mother Lesley were at the family home when Weatherston arrived unannounced, saying he had a farewell present. Weatherston and Sophie went up to her bedroom; a short time later Lesley heard her daughter screaming. A New Zealand Police officer responding to a 1-1-1 call from Lesley found Weatherston locked in Sophie's bedroom. When asked what he had done, he told the officer "I killed her".[8] He was then arrested and taken into custody.


Forensic pathologist Martin Sage performed the postmortem the next day, and found Elliott died from blood loss. Two wounds pierced her heart and one lung, with other wounds to her neck and throat severing the main artery and the major vein. In total she received 216 separate injuries, mostly stab wounds from a knife blade, with some inflicted by scissors. Additionally there were seven blunt force injuries. The pathologist found some defensive wounds, and that the attack targeted aspects of beauty and was intended to disfigure.[9]


At the end of a weeklong depositions hearing during May 2008 in the Dunedin High Court, Weatherston pleaded not guilty and was committed for trial by two justices of the peace. The trial moved to the Christchurch High Court for suppressed reasons, and was scheduled to start on 22 June 2009. Weatherston was represented by Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, who argued a defence of provocation.[1] The knife used in the attack came from Weatherston's kitchen; the defence stated he carried it concealed all the time for self-defence. Two psychiatrists also appeared for the defence, stating he has narcissistic personality disorder.[10]

After a five-week trial the jury returned a guilt verdict on 22 July,[2] and on 15 September Justice Judith Potter sentenced Weatherston to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years, saying she believed the killing was deliberate and controlled.[11]

Weatherston's sister, Angela Muir, says he feels "deeply remorseful... He is not a monster and he is not a killer in the true sense of the word. He might have done it but he is not a murderer in the true sense - he was defending himself."[12] On 13 October 2009, Weatherston's lawyers filed an appeal, claiming there was a 'lynch mob' mentality over his actions.[13][14]

Following the trial, criticism has been focused on the censorship of Sophie Elliott's father's victim impact statement, preventing him from noting Weatherston's history of deception and accusing him of lying concerning his unsubstantiated claim he stabbed Sophie over 200 times in self defense.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b "Sophie Elliott killing: Weatherston 'calm, collected'". 24 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  2. ^ a b Hartevelt, John (22 July 2009). "Weatherston guilty of murder". The Press. Retrieved 2009-10-15.  
  3. ^ "NZ tutor guilty of girlfriend's murder". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  4. ^ "Unanimous 'no' to provocation defence". The New Zealand Herald. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  5. ^ "Clayton Weatherston to be sentenced today". 3 News. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  6. ^ "Provocation defence abolished". The New Zealand Herald. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2009.  
  7. ^ Porteous, Debbie and Harvey, Sarah (11 January 2008). "Murder cuts short life of brilliant student". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  8. ^ Hartevelt, John (8 July 2009). "I killed her, Weatherston told officer at scene". The Press. Retrieved 2009-10-18.  
  9. ^ Sinclair, Kay (7 July 2009). "Sophie 'died from blood loss'". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  10. ^ Price, Mark (25 July 2009). "Narcissists - those infatuated with self". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  11. ^ Porteous, Debbie (15 Sep 2009). "Weatherston gets life". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 2009-10-15.  
  12. ^ Meng-Yee, Carolyne (2009-10-04). "Weatherston to serve his time". The New Zealand Herald.  
  13. ^ Hartevelt, John (14 October 2009). "Appeal by killer appals Elliott family". The Press. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  14. ^ "Clayton Weatherston to appeal conviction". The New Zealand Herald. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.  
  15. ^ Patrick Gower. "Sophie's father says judge censored him". NZ Herald.  
  16. ^

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