Case 14: Sophie Elliott (PART I)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This episode was recorded on new equipment and we did not get an ideal recording. We learnt a lot of lessons though. We hope the quality isn’t too distracting from the information for all you audiophiles out there. Much love, TCNZ.

DUNEDIN. OTAGO. “I then heard the door being unlocked so I opened it and stepped into a small bedroom. In front of me, to my left, was the body of a young Caucasian female on the floor. She was covered in blood around her neck and upper torso. A male was standing with his hands by his sides at the end of the bed next to the body. I said to this person, ‘What have you done?’ To which he replied, ‘I killed her.

Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

If any of this is sounding familiar, or you are a victim of domestic abuse — please know that help is available:

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

Music sourced from:

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
https://filmmusic.io/
“Day of Chaos”, “Distant Tension”, “Healing”, “Infados”, “Mesmerize”, “Oppressive Gloom”, “StompDance”, “Trio for Piano, Cello, and Clarinet”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but I make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

PREFACE

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

Found within the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), in the ‘Cluster B’ personality disorders — code 301.81; you will find the entry for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include: 

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Having a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Exaggerating achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolizing conversations and looking down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what they want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
  • Insisting on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office

When others may challenge the narcissist’s view of themselves, they may display trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and may:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation

Just some things to keep in mind as we move forward with today’s episode.

PART I: “AN AWKWARD SORT OF PERSON”

CLAYTON ROBERT WEATHERSTON

Fig 1. Clayton Weatherston (1993)

Clayton Weatherston was born on the 9th of January 1976. He grew up in the small Dunedin suburb of Green Island. The third child and second son to Roger and Yuleen Weatherston. Growing up Clayton was described as a tense child by his mother, “[he was] anxious and found any new activity or change, such as starting school or leaving home, stressful”.

Clayton had other childhood problems including bedwetting. Although, ultimately Yuleen found Clayton to be an “easy and happy” child. Clayton always loved sport; particularly rugby. He played wing for the Green Island Rugby Club, helping them to a five year unbeaten streak.

From a young age Clayton demonstrated he was a clever child or as one of his classmates put it “… a brainy little prick…”. Clayton was reading at the level of a 14-year-old at age six. In his own words, he felt like “a big fish in a small pond”.

While Clayton had his group of friends; mostly other rugby players. One schoolyard contemporary remembered Clayton as an “awkward sort of person”. Remembering Clayton exhibiting strange behaviour to other children, “He snapped at other kids. He sort of every now and then threw a spastic and buggered off”. Although, another schoolyard chum described him as, “a nice guy”.

Other oddities included when he would travel with his rugby team; Clayton wouldn’t join the rest of the team in their accommodation. Instead, his mother would join him and they would stay in a motel together to lower his anxiety. 

By the end of high school, the big fish was now in the big pond and Clayton worked furiously to reach the high standards he had set for himself. He put his other extra-curricular activities to the side to focus on achieving the highest academic results.

Clayton graduated as top pupil, Dux of his highschool. Even with graduating top of his year in all but one subject — Clayton was disappointed in his performance, “I was extremely disappointed with my external examination performance, and part of that I think was created by anxiety.”

This quest for perfection in academia continued on into Clayton’s university life. In 1994, he began attending Otago University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Commerce. Clayton easily achieved A+ grades on the internal assessments, but his extreme anxiety made external examinations challenging. This stress manifested as vomiting under the stressful exam conditions. Clayton eventually obtained a medical certificate which allowed him to resit the exams.

SELECTIVE SEROTONIN REUPTAKE INHIBITORS

In 1998, Clayton’s relationship with his girlfriend of four years ended when she moved from Dunedin to Auckland; Clayton did not follow her to the North Island. 

It was around this time, Clayton visited the Otago University student health centre for the first time. On the 20th of July 1998, he visited Dr. Stuart Mcmain — Clayton discussed his debilitating anxiety and his fragility in the face of challenge. He was prescribed Fluoxetine Hydrochloride, known more commonly by its brand name Prozac. Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI); mainly used as an antidepressant. Although, it is also considered safe and effective in treating anxiety and panic disorder.

It is interesting to note that some studies have found SSRIs can increase violent behaviour. The American Food and Drug Administration acknowledged this in 2007, “The following symptoms, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants”.

Furthermore, a 2015 study out of Sweden found that, “… for 15-24 year-olds there was a very substantial increase – 43% – in their risk of committing violent crime while on the medication.” A Danish paper published in 2017 reached a similar conclusion, “Based on the clinical study reports, we showed that adverse effects that increase the risk of suicide and violence were 4-5 times more common with duloxetine (an antipressant) than with placebo in trials in middle-aged women with stress urinary incontinence”. 

Clayton Weatherston would continue to take SSRIs for the next decade, “I came to have it on a regular basis, which is one tablet every morning, pretty much every morning”.

GRADUATION

Due to Clayton’s habit of dropping any paper he wasn’t achieving the desired A+ result. It took Clayton six years to obtain his first university qualification. At the turn of the millennium, the year 2000 — he finally obtained his Bachelor of Commerce, “I had to fight my way through an undergraduate degree … the toughest thing for me was getting an undergraduate degree… The further on you get, the easier it gets because it’s more technical and specialised.”

Clayton continued his study, pursuing a postgraduate diploma in economics. In 2002, one of Clayton’s theses received a grade that would tarnish his perfect record; a mere A, “I cried in front of the secretary… For me, it was the best piece of work that I had done in the whole degree.”

In 2003, Clayton began work at the Treasury in Wellington. His time there lasted nine months. The official story was he returned home due to an ongoing bout of glandular fever. Although, rumors have persisted around Clayton not being a popular person during his brief time at the Treasury.

In 2004, Clayton began a new relationship with Hayley (Not her real name). Hayley described Clayton as, “He had a loving, generous side and a nasty and mean demeanor on the other… The private side was a fairly insecure person and someone who could be very mean and someone that got very worked up very easily and wouldn’t be able to get over those things.”

In October 2005, Clayton bought a $200,000 flat in Dunedin. With this, his PhD scholarship money was quickly running short. With a mortgage to pay, Clayton secured a part time economics lectureship position that had become available at Otago University.

In late 2006, Clayton’s romantic relationship ended when, according to Hayley, he “lost it” on her. This domestic incident involved Clayton kicking and jumping on Hayley; causing her nose to bleed. Clayton admitted later that he felt he could have killed her.

When asked later what caused the violence; Clayton explained he had “some concerns about finance – he felt he was subsidising the woman’s lifestyle – and he was worried about his academic future.”

Clayton attempted to mend the damage done by showing up at Hayley’s work in a distressed state. Hayley said later, “When I got up there he was bawling, very upset, crying… He said to me, `You know I love you and I’ve made such a mess of things’. He basically said to me, `My life’s a bit of a mess and I know I’ve messed up’.” Clayton’s efforts were futile; the relationship was over. 

One night, sometime in mid 2007; Clayton was working late in his office at the university. Clayton was leaving feeling a bit peckish as he had not had any dinner, he found one of his female students also working late. Clayton asked if she would like to join him for dinner. She accepted. That student was 22-year-old Sophie Elliot.

SOPHIE KATE ELLIOT

Fig 2. Sophie Kate Elliott

Sophie Kate Elliot was born on the 11th of June 1985 in Ravensbourne, Dunedin to Gilbert and Lesley Elliot. Sophie was the third child to the couple; a younger sister for brothers Nick and Chris.

Sophie came as a surprise to the couple nearing 40 as her father Gilbert explained, “I remember quite vividly the day in 1984 when Lesley came into the lounge and casually announced, ‘Guess what, I’m pregnant.’ I certaining wasn’t expecting such news and retorted with ‘How did that happen?’ Despite Sophie being unplanned she was far from unwanted or unloved and when she was born it was one of those highlights in life you can’t forget and I would never want to. Sophie was a very special girl.”

Described by her mother Lesley as artistic, creative and a real ‘girly girl’ even from a young age. At four-years-old ‘Soph’ started ballet; before branching out into other performing arts including drama and music. Lesley explained her daughter’s love of performing in her book ‘Sophie’s Legacy’, “One of my earliest memories of Sophie on stage was in a play and I could hardly believe what I was seeing and hearing. She had all the confidence in the world and was very good. Music, dance, singing and drama loomed large in her life.”

When Sophie was 11-years-old, her older brother Nick moved to Australia. One year later Sophie’s other brother Chris moved out of home to go flatting. Her father Gil also travelled sporadically for work. Lesley and Sophie developed only deeper bonds in their absence.

Always an assiduous worker at school, Sophie Elliott graduated from the historic Saint Hilda’s Collegiate School with the latin title of Proxime Accessit; meaning ‘she came next’, awarded to the second highest ranking student in the school.

In her last year at secondary school Sophie completed two first year university papers. After graduation, Sophie continued her schooling and attended the University of Otago; working towards a degree in Economics.

In the last year of her degree, 2007; sometime around her 22nd birthday, Sophie Elliot was working late at the university one night when she was approached by one of her lecturers — 33-year-old economics supervisor Clayton Weatherston. He asked her if she would like to have dinner with him. Sophie accepted.

RELATIONSHIP

Fig 3. Clayton and Sophie

A relationship ensued. From the beginning it was rocky. The young Sophie had been in a long term relationship prior, but was unprepared by the inequality in this new relationship. Within three weeks, Sophie had communicated these concerns to mother, “She used to complain that he would never answer text messages, was often late for date arrangements, not ringing her when he said he would — that kind of thing. He liked to drink and socialised yet the odd thing was he seldom ever asked Sophie to join in much of his socialising. Yet he expected her to pick him up from various events. Often she didn’t hear from him for days and when she did it was Sophie who had to fit in with his arrangements. As I said to Sophie, ‘Not a good start to a relationship’.”

Clayton’s take on those early days was that Sophie had become obsessed with him, “[I] was flattered by it”. He claimed that after the first time the couple had sex, they were lying in bed discussing things they liked about each other, “She raised concerns that the things she liked about me were also the thing she didn’t like about me – that I was attractive to other girls by virtue of being sociable”.

Sometime mid 2007, Sophie travelled to Wellington and secured a position in the Treasury’s graduate programme — beginning in January 2008. This programme involved a year of on the job learning before a potential promotion to Treasury Analyst. With Clayton’s history with the Treasury, this was something that evidently made Clayton excessively jealous; threatening to ruin Sophie’s still yet to begin career, using his ‘contacts’ at the Treasury.

The pugnacious nature of the relationship let to many break ups. The twosome would split acrimoniously; not speak for days, perhaps a week before reconciling. This on again/off again aspect of the relationship frustrated Sophie’s mother Lesley, “From a mother’s perspective I gained the impression he was messing around with her mind. She would sometimes come home in tears, saying she would never see him again (even though that was unlikely as he lectured one of her papers). A week later she would say, ‘Mum, you’re not going to be very pleased, but Clayton wants me to give him another chance so we’re seeing each other again.’ I didn’t realise it then, but now see that this begging for another chance is a classic sign of an abusive person.”

Clayton displayed many abusive characteristics. From consistent criticism to more violent actions. He would call Sophie “fat, ugly and stupid” and brag to her about how many girlfriends he had previously “much better than you”. Clayton’s self serving nature lacked empathy for others. Any flaws in his personality were the result of those around him.

Many arguments between the couple circled around Clayton’s sexual insecurities and his need for constant reaffirmation about his sexual performance. In particular how he ranked in comparison to previous partners; was he number one? The persistent conflict reached its climax when a frustrated Sophie relented and admitted he wasn’t.

The relationship ended sometime in November 2007. All Sophie’s exams were finished, her university life was over — she was finally going to graduate. With a couple of months until the big move to Wellington, Sophie took a holiday with her best friend Jess. 

First visiting Sophie’s brother Chris in Melbourne, next they travelled to Sydney to visit Sophie’s other brother Nick. Finally stopping off on the Gold Coast for some theme park action. Sophie phoned Clayton once during her time in Australia, he was very dismissive of her and alluded to being with another woman.

PHYSICAL ABUSE

On the 15th of December 2007, Clayon was celebrating completing his PhD — a party of sorts was in action. Clayton hit the dance floor and cut a rug; Sophie Elliot was there to snap some pics — another one of her creative passions. 

On the 27th of December 2007, Sophie had finished putting together a photo album from the snaps at the party. She took it over to Clayton’s as a late Christmas gift. It was during this time at his flat, Clayton turned violent on Sophie — as detailed in Sophie’s Legacy, “He invited her to sit next to him and talk about where they were going. At that point he began to get amorous, Soophie had no intention of having any further romantic attachment with him and asked him to leave it at that. He then suggested they go to the bedroom and she responded by saying, ‘You’re not getting the message, this is over.’ As she stood to leave, his mood suddenly changed. He picked her up, carried her to his bedroom and threw her roughly onto the bed. Sophie began to scream and Weatherston straddled her and put one arm across her throat and a hand over her mouth. As they struggled, he began to abuse her with words like whore and slut. In the struggle he lost his grip and Sophie was able to get free and run to her car. He followed, opened the car door and screamed, ‘When you were flying back from Australia I hoped the fucking plane would crash so you would be killed’.”

Sophie’s diary entry for that day read, “Lord, I hardly know where to start. Clayton assaulted me… When I went to leave he went absolutely psycho (no exaggeration at all, I assure you). He told me I’m a fucking. horrible person, everyone hates me, I’m fucking ugly, he has never liked me etc, while pinning me down with his entire body on his bed… I confess I was very scared and panicky. I’ve never had a guy use his weight against me like that … I knew he was furious and extremely unreasonable.”

POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL

Fig 4. Power and Control Wheel

You can identify many forms of domestic abuse in just this one incident. Violence is the most easily identifiable but it is used in conjunction with other common forms of abuse, including emotional.

In the 1980s, the American city of Duluth, Minnesota developed a system of identifying different ways abuse manifests. They called it the Power and Control Wheel and it is still used today to help identify different forms of abuse. Eight parts make up the wheel. 

Those are:

  1. Using Intimidation — Making the abused afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
  2. Using Emotional Abuse — Putting the abused down, making the abused feel bad about themselves, or calling them names.
  3. Using Isolation — Controlling what the abused does, and using jealousy to justify those actions.
  4. Minimizing denying and blaming — Making light of the abuse and not taking the abused concerns about it seriously, or saying the abused caused it.
  5. Using Children — Making the abused feel guilty about children, or threatening to take children away.
  6. Using Male Privilege — Treating the abused like a servant, or being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.
  7. Using Economic Abuse — Preventing the abused from getting or keeping a job, or taking the abused money and not letting them know about or have access to family income.
  8. Using Coercion and Threats — Threatening commit suicide if the abused leaves, or making and carrying out threats to do something to hurt them.

Violence and abuse within an intimate relationship is nearly always used by one partner to control and dominate the other. By leaving the abuser, you threaten their sense of ownership over you and their excessive need to control. This is why the devastation they feel is not due to the loss of the survivor, but rather, the loss of control they once held over the survivor. 

Combine this with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it becomes a dangerous cocktail that may result in what’s known as a narcissistic injury, defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as“ … vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”

This loss of power over the victim, and perceived loss of ‘their property’ may cause the abuser’s actions to become more extreme to regain what they have lost. 

MURDER

Wednesday the 9th of January 2008. Lesley Elliot was helping her daughter,  Sophie Elliot pack her bags for her big move from the South Island to the North, from Dunedin to Wellington for her new job working for the Treasury department the next day. 

12.30pm. Clayton Weatherston arrived unannounced at the front door. Sophie informed him, she was running late for a goodbye get together with her friends. If he wanted to talk; it must be in her bedroom so she could continue packing. Sophie and Clayton ascended the stairs to the bedroom.

12.35pm. Sophie arrived in the kitchen and joined her mother, Lesley. “What’s going on?” Lesley asked. “I don’t know what he wants. He’s just sitting there not saying a word”, Sophie replied.

Jointly, mother and daughter heard a toilet flush from upstairs. Lesley asked Sophie to get rid of Clayton as they still had a bunch of work relating to packing to complete. Sophie agreed, she retreated from the kitchen and trekked upstairs once more. Lesley heard Sophie’s bedroom door close. 

Shortly after, Lesley heard Sophie’s piercing screams emanating from the upstairs. Lesley rushed for the stairs. As she ascended to the upper floor, Lesley heard four words, “Don’t Clayton, Don’t Clayton”.

As Lesley reached Sophie’s bedroom she heard a rythmic thumping coming from the other side. Sophie’s desperate screams continued. Lesley thought the thumping was coming from the headboard hitting the wall as Clayton was raping Sophie. She attempted to open the door. Locked. Lesley kicked the door, trying to break it open. When this failed; she screamed at the man on the other side to stop and open the door. No response. The thumping continued.

Lesley quickly rushed downstairs to the kitchen. She retrieved a meat skewer and her cellphone. She dialed 111 while ascending the stairs once more. When Lesley arrived back at the bedroom, she knew the lock on the door had a safety measure which could be engaged using a long, sharp instrument. Lesley hurriedly poked the meat skewer into the lock — hoping to engage the failsafe. 

During this process, Sophie’s screams had gone quiet, Lesley finally got the door to open, “On getting the door open I saw poor Sophie lying on the floor and I knew instantly she was dead. Weatherston was kneeling, sort of straddled over her, stabbing her violently in the chest. Not pausing, he continued stabbing Sophie with his right hand while pushing the door closed with his left. He never said a word”.

Now on the phone with the emergency service. “He’s killed her” Lesley screamed, as the  door is heard closing shut. The police call taker told Lesley to go wait outside for police to arrive. 

Soon after, Constable John Cunningham arrived at the scene, thinking he was responding to ‘just another domestic’, he was unarmed. When Lesley communicated to the constable that Sophie was upstairs dead. John immediately entered the house and tried to get into the bedroom. The door was locked again. John identified himself as police and called for the door to be unlocked or he would kick it in.

“I then heard the door being unlocked so I opened it and stepped into a small bedroom. In front of me, to my left, was the body of a young Caucasian female on the floor. She was covered in blood around her neck and upper torso. A male was standing with his hands by his sides at the end of the bed next to the body. I said to this person, ‘What have you done?’ To which he replied, ‘I killed her.’ He was calm and reserved. He did not appear to be shaking or anything similar, he was in a normal state and in control of himself. When I told him to lie face down on the floor he immediately complied. I then asked him, ‘Why did you kill her?’ He said, ‘The emotional pain she has caused me over the past year.’ When I asked him what he killed her with he said a knife. I asked him where the knife was and he said, ‘Probably under her.’ I asked him about a pair of scissors between the victim’s legs to which he replied, ‘I used them at the end.’ When I got him outside I asked him whose blood it was smeared over his arms, legs and face and he replied, ‘A little bit mine — mostly hers.’ When I asked him who he had killed he replied, ‘It is Sophie Kate Elliott, eleventh of June nineteen eighty-five.’” 

SOURCES

Articles
NZ Herald, A decade on: Sophie Elliott’s family remember her, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11967319
Stuff.co.nz, Inside the mind of a killer, http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/2672247/Inside-the-mind-of-a-killer
Stuff.co.nz, Own evidence seals fate, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/2665587/Own-evidence-seals-fate
Sensible Sentencing Trust, SOPHIE ELLIOTT – HER DAD’S STORY, https://sst.org.nz/sophie-elliott-her-dads-story/
NZ Herald, Where are they now … Lesley Elliott, murder victim Sophie’s inspirational mum, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12271174
Stuff.co.nz, Clayton Weatherston jailed for minimum 18 years, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/2866308/Clayton-Weatherston-jailed-for-minimum-18-years
Otago Daily Times, Clayton Weatherston, https://www.odt.co.nz/tag/clayton-weatherston
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Murderpedia, Clayton Robert WEATHERSTON, https://murderpedia.org/male.W/w/weatherston-clayton.htm
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Wikipedia, Murder of Sophie Elliott, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Sophie_Elliott
Stuff.co.nz, Sophie Elliott killing: Weatherston ‘calm, collected’, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/2530634/Sophie-Elliott-killing-Weatherston-calm-collected
Stuff.co.nz, Appeal by killer appals Elliott family, http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2961325/Appeal-by-killer-appals-Elliott-family
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NZ Herald, Unanimous ‘no’ to provocation defence, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10591799
NZ Herald, Provocation defence abolished, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10611973
NZ Herald, Murder cuts short life of brilliant student (+ photos), https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10486279
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Medical News Today, What is Prozac (fluoxetine)?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/prozac-fluoxetine-side-effects-263773
The BMJ, Antidepressants and murder: case not closed, https://www.bmj.com/content/358/bmj.j3697/rr-4
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Doc Zone, THE PSYCHOPATHY CHECKLIST, https://www.cbc.ca/doczone/m_features/the-hare-psychotherapy-checklist
Healthy Place, Famous Psychopaths You Wouldn’t Want to Run Across, https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/psychopath/famous-psychopaths-you-wouldnot-want-to-run-across
Shine, Introduction to Domestic Abuse, https://www.2shine.org.nz/resource-room/introduction-to-domestic-abuse-1
Newshub, Weatherston talks about sex life with girlfriend, https://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/weatherston-talks-about-sex-life-with-girlfriend-200907091
Thought Catalog, Narcissistic Rage: This Is What Happens When You ‘Discard’ An Abusive Narcissist First, https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2017/03/this-is-what-happens-when-you-discard-an-abusive-narcissist-first/
Psychology Today, The Destructive Force of Narcissistic Injury, https://www.psychologytoday.com/nz/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201608/the-destructive-force-narcissistic-injury

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