SOPHIE ELLIOTT – her Dad’s full story

Soph – that’s what we called her and that is what she called herself, was the shining light in our family. She was the ‘glue’ that kept us all together. We called her ‘our darling love’ because she was so special. She definitely was not however spoilt, far from it.

I remember her as a little girl, when she was ready for bed, she would jump on to my shoes and I would walk her to her bedroom. It was a ritual, on the way I would lift her up briefly onto our night store in the hall way of our old villa and then on my back and onto her bed for a quick bounce and then into bed.

She enjoyed Arthur Street primary school immensely and was involved in all sorts of activities. Outside of school she enjoyed dancing and learned to play the piano. From an early age she went to ballet which was over the other side of town. She frequently didn’t want to go but enjoyed it so much when she got there and got a 50 cent lolly mix from the local dairy afterwards, a sort of reward I guess.

Sophie was hard to keep up with really she was just so enthusiastic about life. I recall the time we went to church and for some reason we had taken two cars. We came home separately neither of us had Sophie! She wasn’t fazed but wondered where we had got to, she would have been 5 or 6 at the time.

She enjoyed tennis, badminton and ice skating but especially dance and went on after years learning ballet, to modern dance and at university did selsa. She was always dancing around the living room. She attended St Hilda’s
collegiate school from form one and excelled once again and especially liked economics and photography. The school was good for her they gave her the stimulus she needed for her enquiring mind and her energy. She enrolled for
two University of Otago first year economics papers in year 13, her last year at high school. She passed these quite easily despite her reasonably heavy school load, also passing year 13 with an A bursary and being named
Proxime Accessit as well.

Sophie worked very hard at University She always had a part time job in the weekends both at school and university. We didn’t expect her to do this but her philosophy was to earn your own way in life. She graduated from university with a first class honours degree in economics despite a very up and down relationship with the person who would soon go on to kill her. He killed her before she had a chance to graduate. He was also abusive towards her in her brief 5 month relationship with him.

Her brother Chris sadly but proudly graduated for her. How she would have loved the pomp and ceremony. The preparations and the fun, coming back to see her friends and how proud we would have been to see her achieve the goal that she had worked so hard for.

I taught her how to drive a car and from a fairly ordinary start she became an expert driver and in her latter school years drove herself to school and other places like work, ice skating etc. We got her her own car later at
university and she used that to travel to and from university and her various activities.

I remember one incident when I was working in Kaitaia and she flew up on her own to spend sometime with me. She went for a drive to her cousin’s place in KeriKeri (her and I had only been there once and yet she was confident she would find her way there and back over what I thought was not an easy route). KeriKeri was over an hour away from Kaitaia and although I had filled the car with petrol, Sophie did a bit of running around in KeriKeri and on the way back at dusk the petrol light came on to indicate a low level of petrol. She phoned me to tell me that she thought she might run out of petrol. I then arranged for a taxi to take me to her with a can of petrol if she did run out. However after traveling most of the distance at 50 Km an hour to conserve petrol (her own doing), she came across a swipe card petrol station and filled up. I thought she was very sensible over this and I was greatly impressed by her common sense approach.

On one occasion in the middle of day she got stopped at a police check point in Dunedin. They checked warrant licence etc. It was the first time she’d ever been stopped and she was really unnerved, ending up by driving out from the check point into traffic and being hit by a truck. She got a ticket for dangerous driving. She was extremely upset, let alone the damage to the car. With our encouragement she wrote to police and explained that had she not been stopped this wouldn’t have happened. She got off if I remember rightly.

She used to complain that her mother couldn’t drive properly and I reminded her that I had taught her to drive as well. This didn’t hold much weight though, she said her mum wasn’t a good driver.

She was very technology savvy as are many young ones today. I would ask for her help on the computer, she was always willing to show me but would go so fast I would say ” Slow down I can’t follow you”. She would say,
(exasperated) ” Look Dad don’t worry about it I am always here I can do it for you, you will never get the hang of it”. One other time we’d bought a DVD player. I was away and she set it up with explicit instructions how to
operate it. At the bottom of the note she finished by saying “If you can’t understand this you’re a retard”.

I also remember the time she helped her mother with a new cell phone, getting it set up etc. her mother asked her if she could write some instructions for her and she did, a total of three foolscap pages! At least she didn’t get to call her a ‘retard’. She used to call me ‘a Gump’ too when I was a bit slow to get something she was explaining.

When I had heart surgery in 2005. Sophie came into hospital ever day during my ten day wait before and after to keep me company. The other men in my room enjoyed her company also, she’d come in hair, bags and books flying and
talking flat out. I don’t remember, but her mother said she sat with me in ICU. She had a boy friend but she didn’t want him there because she said this was family stuff.

I regret that I didn’t see as much of her as I would have liked in the last few years of her life because I worked away from home. However when I came home she was always very welcoming and then would want to know when I was
going so that things would be back to normal for her mum and her. Her mother said if I left before she got home she always got upset because I’d gone without saying good bye.

Sophie had a very special bond with her mum and loved her brothers as well of course. She was a vivacious and loving young lady and would never have done any harm to anyone or anything. She loved her friends very much as well and had some special close girl friends. She was always doing nice things for others. Sophie also helped with photography at Dunedin Hospital unit fundraising for a couple of years. Sophie loved photography and was very
good with her camera which she chose and bought with her own money.

She was also the first student to make a photo board for the honours class at university. This included the lecturers some of whom were reluctant to be photographed but she always caught them at some stage. She had a reputation: ‘that camera’ was always close by.

At Christmas time she joined others to walk around the wards with candles to sing Christmas carols to the patients. The Christmas before she died she finished work on Christmas eve and even though her mother was working she came in and did the carol singing as she knew this would be the last one before she left for her first career job in Wellington.

Sophie was one of life’s treasures and I miss her more than I can express. Her dreams and plans for the future and ours for her as well were lost for ever the day she died, aged only 22. She would have gone to Wellington the
next day to start a job at Treasury, it was never to be.

I want other girls to take Sophie’s story on board; she died needlessly in her own bedroom on the eve of the next phase of her life. It is up to us all to support the call to stop abuse. Other parents, families and friends need to be able to recognize the signs and support any woman to get out of an abusive relationship.

Gil Elliott, Sophie’s Dad