Grace Millane murder: New Zealand man found guilty of killing British backpacker

The parents of the British backpacker who was murdered on a Tinder date in New Zealand broke down in tears outside court as they said their daughter didn’t "deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way".

Grace Millane was choked to death on the night before her 22nd birthday and buried in a suitcase in a shallow grave outside Auckland.

Her killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty in one of the most highly publicised murder cases in New Zealand’s history.

David Millane, Grace’s father, struggled to compose himself outside court on Friday alongside his wife Gillian as he thanked the people of tourist-friendly New Zealand for "opening their hearts" during a three week trial.

After enduring three weeks of a trial that delved into the details of his daughter’s past sexual activity, he wept as he said the verdict "will not reduce the pain".

Grace Millane, 22, who was killed in New Zealand in December 2018Credit:
Lucie Blackman Trust/PA

Ms Millane was killed during what the defence characterised as "rough sex" at the flat of her murderer after the two met through the dating app Tinder.

They spent the evening drinking cocktails in Auckland before heading back to the hotel where the murderer was living.

The defendant did not dispute the fact that Ms Millane died in his home and that he disposed of her body in rugged bushland outside Auckland, where it was found a week later.

But his defence claimed Ms Millane died after encouraging him to choke her during consensual sex, then he disposed of the body and cleaned up the death scene because he was in a panic.  

Prosecutors labelled the story a "labyrinth of lies", saying after Ms Millane’s death he took pictures of her, searched online for sites to dispose of the corpse, watched pornography, and arranged another Tinder date for the following night. Prosecutors said the man was seeking "total domination" over his victim.

Ms Millane's body was found in a suitcase buried in a shallow grave in bushland near Auckland

Details of Ms Millane’s sexual preferences were also heard in court, with the defence pointing to her membership of BDSM websites and history of choking during sex with previous partners in an attempt to paint her death as consensual sexual activity that "went wrong".

The judge told the jury on Friday that "consent is not a defence to murder”. He told the jury they would have to acquit the man if they found Ms Millane consented not only to having pressure applied to her neck, but also to the degree and duration of that pressure.

Forensic evidence claimed it would typically take a person four to five minutes to die from the injuries Ms Millane suffered.

Mr Millane was overcome by emotion outside court after the verdictCredit:
Dave Rowland/Getty

The jury took five hours to find the killer guilty.

Despite a ban on naming the killer, details of his past have emerged – painting a picture of a serial fantasist who had regularly targeted women, lying to seduce them.

The murder of Ms Millane caused an outpouring of grief in New Zealand. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern apologised to the Millane family after her body was found on 9 December 2018, eight days after she disappeared.

“There is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country,” she said.

The judge has said he will sentence the murderer on February 21, when reporting restrictions banning the publication of his identity are likely to be lifted.

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