Weatherston committed for trial

Former University of Otago lecturer Clayton Weatherston has been committed for trial after pleading not guilty to murdering ex-girlfriend Sophie Elliott.

After a four-day depositions hearing in the Dunedin District Court, justice of the peace Ashley Broad yesterday told Weatherston he and colleague Russell Atkinson were of the opinion there was sufficient evidence to put the defendant to trial.

‘‘Do you wish to plead guilty?''

‘‘No,'' Weatherston replied.

Weatherston (32) is accused of murdering Miss Elliott (22) in her Ravensbourne home on January 9.

She was stabbed or cut more than 200 times.

The ruling came after the court heard from the last of nine witnesses to give evidence.

The written statements and evidence of eight other Crown witnesses, including video footage of

Weatherston's police interview, were suppressed at the request of the defence.

Constable John Cunningham told the court he was the first policeman to enter Miss Elliott's bedroom after the stabbing.

Details of what he saw and his ensuing discussion with Weatherston were suppressed at the request of counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr.

Earlier in the week, Crown lawyer Robin Bates introduced the conversations during a summary of evidence to be presented during the hearing.

He said Const Cunningham would give evidence that when he entered the bedroom he asked Weatherston what he had done. Weatherston told Const Cunningham: ‘‘I've killed her'', in a calm, normal tone, Mr Bates said.

Const Cunningham then asked Weatherston why, and he said ‘‘Because of the emotional pain she has caused me over the past year''.

Two of Weatherston's former work colleagues from the university's economics department gave evidence for the defence after lunch yesterday.

Associate Prof Paul Hansen and Prof Dorian Owen both told the court Weatherston, who had 24 A-plus passes and one A, had the most impressive academic record they had seen.

They both testified Weatherston, who recently graduated with his PhD, was pleasant, an ‘‘exceptional student'', a good teacher and someone graduate students had looked up to.

Dr Hansen said he overheard an argument between Miss Elliott and Weatherston in Weatherston's office two days before her death. He had counselled an ‘‘exasperated'' Weatherston afterwards to ‘‘chill out'' and hold out until the Friday, when Miss Elliott was expected to leave Dunedin to take up a job in Wellington.

Weatherston agreed he would do that, he said.

‘‘That's why this is so inexplicable to me.''

To defence counsel Mrs Ablett-Kerr, both Dr Hansen and Prof Owen said they believed Weatherston had a chance at a lectureship he had wanted, as he was one of six or seven applicants shortlisted for three positions.

Miss Elliott's former workmate Erin van de Water said some of Miss Elliott's last words to her were that Weatherston was acting ‘‘like a loon'' following an argument between them two days before her death.

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