Elliott book aims 'to set record straight'

Lesley Elliott
Lesley Elliott
Lesley Elliott's book about the events surrounding the 2008 murder of daughter Sophie includes claims convicted murderer Clayton Weatherston accessed pornography on University of Otago computers and comments on perceived inadequacies in the justice system.

Published today, Sophie's Legacy: A mother's story of her family's loss and their quest for change addresses Weatherston's defence of provocation; Lesley and Gil Elliott's determination to change a justice system they believe does little to support victims and their families; and Mrs Elliott's aspirations for the Sophie Elliott Foundation, which aims to teach girls and women how to recognise the signs of an abusive partner.

It also looks at the university's policy regarding staff-student relationships.

Co-written by Bill O'Brien, a former policeman whose book Aramoana: 22 Hours of Terror was the basis for feature film Out of the Blue, Sophie's Legacy is harrowing in its forensic details of the brutal murder and mutilation of Miss Elliott (22) on January 9, 2008.

It is also an attempt to set the record straight regarding Miss Elliott's reputation, according to Mr O'Brien.

"In my time in the police, I'd seen a lot of things around the justice system and how people who were dead had been maligned.

"They have no way of defending themselves. There was the issue of resurrecting Sophie's image.

"We also talked about the justice system, the long delays in awaiting trial and a lack of communication for the victim's family," Mr O'Brien said.

Tomorrow would have been Miss Elliott's 26th birthday.

Instead of celebrating the occasion with their daughter and sister, the Elliott family will mark both the official Dunedin launch of the Sophie Elliott Foundation and the release of Sophie's Legacy.

"We've got the launch of the foundation and the book, but it is bittersweet," Mrs Elliott said earlier this week.

"I'm still not sure how I feel about the book.

"Somebody asked if the book has been cathartic. Maybe it has been. I think for our family, extended family, Sophie's friends and others, it puts the whole story together."

Sophie Elliott
Sophie Elliott
Among the book's disclosures is a claim Weatherston, a university economics lecturer, had been found to have accessed and downloaded pornography "hours and hours on end" using the university's computers.

"We found that out after Sophie died. It wasn't allowed to be used at trial. We brought it up in the book. We thought it was relevant to the sort of behaviour he exhibited, particularly towards women. In most jobs, you'd probably get fired for downloading porn," Mrs Elliott said.

The authors also lambast the University of Otago's staff-student relationship policy, which was revised following Miss Elliott's murder.

"Basically, they redrafted it and it came out as wishy-washy as the first one, which was that the relationship between a student and their supervisor had to be reported to the head of department," Mrs Elliott said.

"They talk about 'managing' it. What does 'manage' mean? According to policy, they did what they were supposed to do.

"In a lot of professions it isn't tolerated. Lawyers, doctors ...

what's different about the university?

"In our point of view the university had a duty of care to Sophie - and all students for that matter."

Sophie's Legacy: A mother's story of her family's loss and their quest for change, by Lesley Elliott (co-written with former policeman Bill O'Brien), is published today. The book will be launched at a fundraising event at the Wall Street Mall at 6pm tomorrow.

A feature interview with Lesley Elliott and Bill O'Brien will appear in tomorrow's Weekend Magazine section.


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