NZ 'not a safe country': Sophie Elliott's father on Grace Millane murder

Morning Talk 10/12/2018
Sophie Elliott (L), Grace Millane (R). Photo: Newshub.

The father of a Dunedin woman killed in 2008 has spoken out about the murder of British tourist Grace Millane, saying he can relate to her family's grief. 

Gill Elliott, father of Sophie Elliott, told RadioLIVE on Monday he feels "so sad for Grace's family, because I know what they're going through". 

The 26-year-old New Zealand man accused of killing 22-year-old Ms Millane was granted name suppression on Monday, with the victim's father and uncle present in the Auckland District Court, having flown in from England.

"That fellow may or may not plead guilty," said Mr Elliott. "If he does, then it's a court case in around 16-18 months' time", he speculated, "which means the parents will have to come back and forth to New Zealand".

Mr Elliott's daughter was also 22 when she was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Clayton Weatherston, in 2008. Her body was found on top of an open suitcase she'd been packing for her move to Wellington and blood was spattered all over the room, it was reported at the time.  

Weatherston admitted stabbing his ex-girlfriend 216 times and mutilating seven areas of her body, but claims she provoked him into losing control and killing her.

"Sophie's been gone almost 11 years now and it doesn't get any easier quite frankly - you have your good days and your bad days," said Mr Elliott. "Grief lasts a lifetime, and that's just it unfortunately.

"The guy that killed Sophie, he's going to come out alive. Sophie's not alive - she's lost her life. She got a life sentence, the same way Grace got a life sentence.

"You don't expect that your child goes on an OE and ends up dead - you don't expect that at all."

A missing persons investigation was opened last week for Ms Millane after she failed to contact her family for three days after arriving in New Zealand from South America, which her father said was out of character.

Police found a body on Sunday in a location in the Waitakere Ranges, which they believe to be Ms Millane.

"I'll tell you something about the police: they are very good," said Mr Elliott. "Those police will be friends for life, I'll tell you, because that's what happens in those cases.

"But we're not a clean-green country; we're not a safe country at all. I guess people have to get that idea out of their minds completely.

"For something like this to happen on a random basis shows you just how bad we are over here."

Mr Elliott said he's appalled at New Zealand's high levels of domestic violence. 

Last year former Justice Minister Amy Adams said New Zealand has the highest rates of family violence in the developed world, which she called a "shameful record". 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this year that in the longer-term, a culture shift was needed in New Zealand if it was to fix its domestic violence problem.

"Why do we have that sort of situation?" Mr Elliott asked. 

Last year's murder rate was the lowest in New Zealand since 1975, but Mr Elliott said from what he's observed, "I don't think [crime] is going down."

He said his heart goes out to Grace's father who has "come all this way hoping that [Ms Millane] had been kidnapped or something like that and that she might be alive". 

"Obviously people in this country are pretty distraught about this."

Listen to the full interview with Gill Elliott above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.

RadioLIVE/Newshub.