Appeal by killer appals Elliott family

16:00, Oct 13 2009

The father of Sophie Elliott says the taxpayer is footing the bill for a "frivolous" appeal by her killer, Clayton Weatherston.

Weatherston, 33, yesterday filed an appeal against his conviction for the murder of his former girlfriend.

"He's been convicted of murder and that should be the end of it," Gil Elliott said yesterday.

"You and I are paying for it, and it's not a good use of our money for bad eggs."

Weatherston's lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC, is leaving the appeal to Wellington-based Robert Lithgow, QC.

Weatherston killed Elliott, 22, by stabbing her 216 times in the bedroom of her Dunedin home on January 9 last year.

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When a police officer arrived at the scene, a bloodstained Weatherston said he had killed Elliott with a knife and used scissors "at the end".

In the High Court in Christchurch this year, Ablett-Kerr had argued Weatherston was provoked by Elliott and should be convicted of manslaughter.

The jury rejected that controversial defence.

Justice Minister Simon Power then announced that provocation as a partial defence for murder would be dumped.

Power yesterday told The Press he would shortly meet with the Elliotts at the Dunedin home where their daughter died to discuss their frustration with the legal system.

Legal aid figures for Weatherston's defence are yet to be finalised, with the $101,242 paid out so far a preliminary figure.

Court and police investigation costs and the legal bill for Crown prosecutors would push up the total bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Further costs will accrue when Weatherston's appeal is considered next year.

"This is another right they have that they shouldn't," Gil Elliott said yesterday.

"He's a convicted murderer and he still has the right to use taxpayers' money to go to the appeal court. That's wrong."

Elliott said the family was "a bit flat" since Weatherston was given a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years.

"The bottom line is, we don't get Sophie back," Elliott said.

"Here he is still grizzling about what is happening to him, but we don't get Sophie back and he's still alive.

"I bet if we went along to the prosecution and said `we don't like that sentence, we think it should have been 25 years', they would say, `oh no, we think it's OK'."

The family had expected that Weatherston might appeal his sentence. However, they had no idea that he would appeal his conviction.

"He still doesn't believe that it was his fault ... He thought that he was right when he was up on the stand and that it was all Sophie's fault and nothing to do with him," Elliott said.

Elliott's wife, Lesley, was concerned about the impact of the appeal process.

However, Elliott believed Weatherston had no hope of success.

"We wouldn't go through another trial," Gil Elliott said.

"It was harrowing enough being there and going through that trial – I wouldn't go through another one. He could do it on his own."

Lithgow said yesterday he knew nothing about the case other than what he had seen in the media.

"Everything is up in the air ...," Lithgow told Radio New Zealand.

"I have to get instructed by legal aid but he's asked me to do it and I have no objection to doing it – that's my job.

"You can sense that there are problems with the amount of public groundswell.

"The press went nuts over the whole thing and sort of a lynch-mob mentality developed, which isn't really the way that New Zealand jury trials are supposed to go."

A spokeswoman for the Court of Appeal said documents from the High Court in Christchurch would be gathered but the appeal could not be heard until next year.

Weatherston's appeal was against his conviction only, and not against his sentence.

The Press