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By Kay Sinclair
Thu, 16 Jul 2009
A specialist psychiatrist has given evidence murder accused Clayton Weatherston was not mentally ill when he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in January last year.
But the 33-year-old former University of Otago economics tutor had features of anxiety disorder and personality features of narcissism and obsessionality, David Chaplow, Director of Mental Health for New Zealand, said yesterday.
Dr Chaplow, a doctor for 40 years, a psychiatrist for 26, is the first of two psychiatric experts the defence is calling in the trial of Weatherston for the January 9, 2008 murder of 22-year-old Sophie Elliott.
Weatherston has admitted the manslaughter of Miss Elliott but denies murdering her.
The defence says he was provoked into losing control and reacted when Miss Elliott attacked him with scissors, that his particular personality made him vulnerable and unable to cope with the emotional pain experienced in the relationship.
The case has now been under way in the High Court at Christchurch for three weeks.
The hearing, before Justice Judith Potter and a jury of 11, is likely to be completed next week.
Dr Chaplow said he interviewed Weatherston twice in prison last year, on April 24 and November 29, each time for about two and a-half hours.
He also interviewed the accused’s former girlfriend and his mother, read statements from various others and was in court throughout Weatherston’s evidence.
Weatherston presented himself in a good light at interview and appeared to have an inflated sense of his own achievements, Dr Chaplow said.
He was “quite controlling” and would not deviate from the historical detail he wanted to present in his own way.
He agreed he was “obsessive” and confessed to “obsessive rituals”, he never allowed others to treat him like “s…”, and dealt with his aggression by lifting heavy weights.
He denied intending to harm a former girlfriend he admitted having assaulted.
Narcissism was “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early childhood and having features of a grandiose sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love and a belief in himself being ‘special’, requiring excessive admiration, possessing a sense of entitlement, a tendency to be interpersonally exploitative, lacking empathy, often envious of others, demonstrating arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes”.
Weatherston showed characteristics of the disorder, one trait of the narcissist being the propensity for “narcissistic rage” when frustrated and/or humiliated, the witness said.
It appeared Weatherston was highly competitive and had difficulty coping with criticism.
Weatherston could be described as having an anxiety disorder, his fear, tears and dependence on his mother coming through his developmental and social history, wetting the bed beyond the normal period, tearful when he had to leave home, finding it difficult to cope with having to wear glasses and when he first went to university.
Obsessionality referred to a pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and control, traits which usually worsened under stress.
Weatherston had been on Prozac for five years and had increased his dosage in the days before the killing when he had not been eating or sleeping much.
Dr Chaplow’s opinion was Weatherston was a vulnerable character because of his personality characteristics of anxiety, obsessionality and narcissism, and made more so by two nights of difficulty sleeping.
“It may not be unreasonable to believe the excess medication played a part,” he said.
And in the moments before the killing, the alleged comments by Miss Elliott about Weatherston’s mother and Miss Elliott’s alleged attack on him, knocking his glasses off, all “summated in rage” against her, ending in her mutilation and death.
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Tears flow at Weatherston trial
Published: 12:29PM Thursday July 02, 2009
Emotions spilled over in the murder trial of Clayton Weatherston in Christchurch on Thursday as letters he wrote after his arrest were read to the court.
The university tutor is accused of killing Sophie Elliott by stabbing her more than 200 times.
A former girlfriend of the accused, who has name supression, read a letter she sent him while he was in jail.
“This will be a rough ride, you’ll be ok,” she read.
As Weatherston’s ex-girlfriend began to cry, there were tears from Clayton Weatherston too. His lawyer had to take over reading a letter he had written back.
“I’m nervous about court on Thursday and I’m annoyed my side will not be made public,” the letter, from just days after he stabbed Elliott to death, read.
The woman, who had been Weatherston’s girlfriend for three years, said she had written to him before she knew the extent of Elliott’s injuries.
“When I found out what had gone on…I couldn’t believe it and I wouldn’t have written a letter,” she said.
She also told the defence about the night Weatherston attacked her and kicked her across a room.
“Just before he kicked me he said ‘you ungrateful bitch’.” t
She agreed he was stressed and on anti-depressants at the time.
Just after the court adjourned, one of the jurors collapsed in the jury room.
A doctor in the court’s public gallery gave the juror medical assistance before he was taken away by an ambulance.
“We will get a report from the hospital after they have been able to assess his condition,” Justice Potter said.
If he is too unwell to continue, the court will reconvene at 10am on Friday with a jury of just 11.