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The story of Sophie Elliot shows a side of tragedy we don't usually see.

Ten years after the murder of Sophie Elliot, her family are still enduring unimaginable pain.

Their lives have never, and will never, be the same.

Sophie, 22, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Clayton Weatherston, who stabbed her 216 times in her own bedroom.

On January 9, 2008, the university graduate was in her bedroom at her family’s Dunedin home, packing for her new job with the New Zealand treasury, which she was starting the next day.

Weatherson arrived unannounced at the house, claiming he had a farewell present for her.

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The couple’s relationship had ended six months earlier. Weatherston was an economics tutor at the University of Otago, and Sophie had been one of his students.

A short time later Sophie’s mother, Lesley, heard her daughter screaming. She rushed to her bedroom to witness Weatherston killing Sophie in a violent stabbing frenzy.

According to the autopsy report, Weatherston continued to stab Sophie even after she was dead.

In court Weatherson used the provocation defense, telling the jury that Sophie had mistreated him and attacked him with scissors as she packed.

The jury found him guilty of Sophie’s murder and he was given an 18-year non-parole life sentence – which pales in comparison to the life sentence he handed to the Elliots.


“Strangely enough I think each [anniversary] has got harder,” Lesley recently told the Weekend Herald

“I think because, it’s a long time ago but it’s not. It just seems like yesterday in some respects because I just remember so much of it so vividly, and yet there’s so much that I haven’t remembered.”

sophie elliot
The Elliot's story paints a picture of tragedy, pain, endurance, and hope, one that we don't often see in the media. Image via Facebook.

The memory of witnessing her own daughter's death has haunted Lesley for the past 10 years.


"The day after Sophie died I went to my GP and said, 'Give me what it takes to keep me standing up in the day and sleeping in the night, because I won't survive this'," Lesley explained.

Lesley and her now ex-husband, Gil, have dedicated their lives to advocating for violence prevention so no other family will have to endure what they have.

Together they have spoken out in support of a law change, leading to the removal of the provocation defense.

Lesley has also penned two books - Sophie's Legacy and Loves Me Not, with her friend and former police officer, Bill O'Brien.

She also launched the Sophie Elliott Foundation and Loves Me Not, a violence prevention program which is conducted in 105 New Zealand schools.

The Elliot's story paints a picture of tragedy, pain, endurance, and hope, one that we don't often see in the media.

In the decade since Sophie's murder, Lesley and Gil's marriage has broken down. They remain friends and continue to work on advocacy projects together.

Lesley, now 71, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease six years ago and recently underwent major back surgery. Despite this she has dedicated her life to Loves Me Not and frequently flies across the country to speak at public events.

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Gil, now 75, is still angry. He believes Weatherston got off easy and he still can't believe Sophie's conduct was questioned at the trial.

"He's still alive and able to get out and she was given a life sentence," he told the Weekend Herald.

"Every year is hard and it will still be hard as time goes on. The thing with grief is that it doesn't get any better. It changes, but it doesn't get any better."

Lesley still lives in the family home and only recently packed up the bedroom where her daughter died. She still calls it Sophie's room.

"I'm very comfortable with being here, it doesn't bother me at all. As far as I'm concerned, she's here. I have a spiritual feeling that she is. Every time I hear the stairs creak I'm sure it's her coming up and down the stairs. I know it sounds ridiculous but I'm comfortable with it."

Every year on January 9, Lesley visits the tree that was planted at Otago University for Sophie.

She makes sure she's there by 12.15pm. Sophie died at 12.25pm.

In their daughter's memory, Lesley and Gil will continue to fight for justice and violence prevention for as long as they can.

But Sophie's story shows us that in the face of unimaginable tragedy, there isn't just one victim. Sophie's murder was also a crime against her family, and all those who loved her. And they will carry that pain for the rest of their lives.