Lesley Elliott closes Sophie Elliott Foundation 11 years after her daughter's murder

Sophie Elliott with her mother Lesley Elliott.
Sophie Elliott with her mother Lesley Elliott. Photo credit: Supplied

Eleven years after her daughter was stabbed to death, Lesley Elliott is closing down the foundation she created in her honour. 

Sophie Elliott was murdered after a five-month relationship with her emotionally abusive boyfriend Clayton Weatherston.

Lesley didn't find out about the abuse until after Sophie's death, and started the foundation to raise awareness about the signs of an abusive relationship. 

The Loves Me Not school programme was also developed to teach year 12 students about abuse and healthy relationships. 

However, after more than a decade, Lesley said she needs to wind down the foundation and hand Loves Me Not over to the police. 

She said she wanted to share Sophie's story, and feels she has achieved that. 

Lesley, who has Parkinson's disease, said she is no longer able to run the foundation and doesn't want someone else taking control of her daughter's image. 

She acknowledged that reliving her daughter's death is incredibly difficult and has taken a toll. 

"It doesn't get any easier. I have the same emotional breakdowns now that I did at the beginning."

Sophie's legacy 

In 2008, Sophie Elliot was packing for a new Treasury job when her ex-boyfriend Otago University lecturer Clayton Weatherston knocked on her door. 

Her mother answered and Weatherston told her he had something to give to Sophie. 

Lesley said she "didn't like Weatherston much", but let him upstairs. 

Soon after Lesley heard loud noises from her daughter's room and went to check on her. She struggled to open her door and when she did, she saw Sophie lying on the floor covered in blood. Weatherston was sitting on Sophie stabbing her. 

Lesley tried to help her daughter, but Weatherston closed the door. Weatherston was arrested and found guilty of murder in 2008.

After Sophie's death, Lesley began to discover the extent of emotional abuse her daughter suffered. 

She realised she wanted to make a difference and created the Sophie Elliott Foundation with Kristin Dunne. 

Kristin Dunne met Lesley after Sophie's death.
Kristin Dunne met Lesley after Sophie's death. Photo credit: Supplied

Kristin and Lesley had become friends after realising the similarities in their stories.

In 2006 Kristin was seriously injured when her then-partner sports presenter Tony Veitch kicked her so hard he broke her back. Veitch claimed the incident was a one-off, but in a statement to police, Kristin recounted numerous incidents of abuse. Veitch was convicted of recklessly injuring Kristin in April 2009. 

Kristin said she didn't realise she was in an abusive relationship until it was over because she didn't recognise the signs. 

She didn't want other people to become trapped in violent relationships. 

"It's Sophie's story, but it's the same story for anyone who has been in an abusive relationship, including myself."

She said many young people don't know what a healthy relationship looks like, which is why education is so important. 

"It's deeply sad that we still have people and children being killed by their family. It's horrific and nothing that happens at that national level seems to be changing that," she said. "I really believe that prevention is the only way forward."

Kristin will continue in an advisory role, while the police run Loves Me Not. She said she has complete faith in them, something Lesley agrees with. 

They have been totally involved through the whole thing. They have been very supportive," Lesley said. 

Police continue Loves Me Not

School community officer Constable Natasha Marinkovich runs the programme in Taupo schools.

She told Newshub education is key to breaking the cycle of violence in New Zealand. 

Marinkovich said Sophie's story will live on and serve as a reminder to people that violence can affect anybody. 

"Sophie was an educated girl, she had goals, she had her whole life ahead of her and it happened to her," she said.

"I think there's this underlying thought that family violence only happens to lower socio-economic people who don't really have a life, but that's actually really untrue. It happens across all areas of society."

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