Mental state 'of concern'

A former girlfriend of murder accused Clayton Weatherston has told a Dunedin court she was worried about Weatherston's mental state after a conversation with him two nights before Sophie Elliott was killed.

The woman was giving evidence on the second day of depositions hearings in the Dunedin District Court against Weatherston (32), who is accused of fatally stabbing his former girlfriend Miss Elliott (22) at her Ravensbourne home in January.

"Clayton was unusual. He was irate and discussed Sophie and his job over and over and over again.

"I think he was quite unwell, although I had heard him speak this way on occasion. I was quite concerned about him," the woman, whose name was suppressed, told defence lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr during her cross-examination.

Her evidence was followed by that of Miss Elliott's former academic supervisor, Robert Alexander, a University of Otago senior lecturer in economics.

He said Miss Elliott told him the day before she died Weatherston had said to her he wished she was dead.

Over the year he was Miss Elliott's dissertation supervisor, they began to share information about their personal lives and she increasingly spoke to him of the negative aspects of her relationship with Weatherston, he said.

At questioning from Crown lawyer Robin Bates, Dr Alexander said Miss Elliott told him Weatherston sometimes told her she was fat, ugly and stupid.

He said Miss Elliott told him the day before she died Weatherston had pushed her on stairs the previous day, assaulted her at his flat the week before and screamed at her that he wished her dead because she had ruined his chances of a permanent job in the economics department.

Dr Alexander said Weatherston, at work, was competitive, had a superior attitude and had a habit of pointing out faults in graduate students' work in an "unhelpful" manner.

He believed his own relationship with Weatherston deteriorated after he asked Weatherston to change parts of his PhD, he told Mrs Ablett-Kerr during a lengthy cross-examination.

Dr Alexander declined to accept her suggestion that Weatherston was "hypersensitive" to criticism.

"I would put it that he thought he was superior to everyone else and above criticism."

He had gone to speak to Weatherston about his concerns over the way he was "helping" graduate students when Weatherston asked him if his relationship with Miss Elliott would affect his chances of getting the job.

He advised Weatherston he was unlikely to get the lectureship because of the "many other difficulties he had already caused in the department", specifically two separate accusations of colleagues' plagiarising his work, including one against the then head of the economics department.

"I was concerned enough to suggest other jobs because he had few supporters left in the department and was unlikely to get the job."

Dr Alexander said he had not brought up Miss Elliott's concerns with the head of department because his priority was listening to Miss Elliott in a personal capacity.

The depositions hearing continues today.


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