British backpacker Grace Millane was murdered during rough sex by her Tinder date who then watched pornography and took photos of her body, a court in New Zealand heard. Her body was found in a wooded area near Auckland a week after she was last seen at a hotel in the city centre on December
British backpacker Grace Millane was murdered during rough sex by her Tinder date who then watched pornography and took photos of her body, a court in New Zealand heard.
Her body was found in a wooded area near Auckland a week after she was last seen at a hotel in the city centre on December 2.
The 22-year-old, from Wickford, Essex, was on a round-the-world trip when she arrived in New Zealand last November.
A 27-year-old man, whose name cannot be published for legal reasons, is standing trial accused of her murder at Auckland’s High Court.
Opening the Crown’s case, prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told the jury she had been strangled until she bled through nose.
But her killer, said Mr McCoubrey, later told police it was Miss Millane, a university graduate from Essex, who had told him to put his hands around her neck to choke her as part of an erotic asphyxiation technique she had practiced with a long-term boyfriend in Britain.
His lawyer, Ian Brookie, today told the jury that although he did not blame Miss Millane for her own death, it was an accident, not murder, ‘when an act designed to enhance their sexual pleasure went wrong and she died as a result.’
The parents of Grace Millane, David and Gillian Millane, arrived at the Auckland High Court
On Monday, the 27-year-old defendant, a New Zealander who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to murdering Lincoln University graduate Miss Millane in the room of a city centre hotel where he was living full time
‘What’s important here is that they were both keen to give it a go and they did,’ said Mr Brookie.
The truth of happened, said prosecutor Mr McCoubrey, was that the 22-year-old’s death was no accident, and was obvious from what the 27-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons did after her death.
Rather than raise the alarm, he spent an hour researching how to dispose of her body, watching hard core pornography on his phone and taking a series of intimate pictures of her.
The next day, he bought a suitcase in which he would later stuff her body and bury it in remote woodland.
He hired a car and bought cleaning equipment to ‘calmly, coldly and methodically’ remove traces of Grace’s blood from his carpet, said Mr McCoubrey.
At the same time, the jury heard, he arranged another Tinder date with another woman who he met the same day as Grace lay dead on his floor.
The family of murdered British backpacker Grace Millane (far right). From left to right: Father David Millan, brother Michael Millane, mother Gillian Millane, brother Declan Millane and Grace
Grace met the suspect for the first time at a bar in Auckland on December 1 last year, the eve of her 22nd birthday, the court heard.
She had texted a friend back in Britain to say the date with the man was going well.
The brunette, whose parents David and Gillian today sat in the front of the public gallery, was captured on CCTV kissing the man in a bar and walking hand-in-hand with him to a city centre hotel where he lived.
Mr McCoubrey said: ‘Grace was clearly enjoying the date at that stage. There’s clear evidence that both parties anticipated sexual activity.’
But she would never be seen alive again. Mr McCoubrey said only two people knew what had happened in the room and one of them was dead.
He told the jury the defendant had told a string of lies to police when he was confronted, at first claiming the couple had parted ways before they got to his apartment.
He then changed his story when confronted by CCTV images of the pair of them entering the CityLife hotel where he was living.
Grace Millane’s (pictured) family, who flew out to New Zealand to collect the body, previously paid tribute to the talented artist
In a recorded interview, he gave a detailed account claiming Miss Millane had taken charge as they had sex.
‘She jumped on top and started showing me what she wanted to do,’ the suspect said.
The defendant added she held him around the neck to heighten their sexual pleasure.
‘We started having I guess more violent sex. We ended up on the floor and we kept going on the floor,’ according to a statement read to the jury by Mr McCoubrey.
‘She told me to hold her arms tighter, and then she told me to hold her throat and um, go harder.’
‘Then at that point we’d finished, so I went into the shower, cause at that point I was sweating.’
The defendant, said Mr McCoubrey, had given no explanation for how Miss Millane died.
‘All I remember is falling asleep in the shower,’ he had told detectives in his interview, ‘and then waking up. I crawled back into bed.
‘Initially I thought Grace had left. And I was obviously asleep in bed. I woke up the next day and I saw that she was lying on the floor. I saw that she had blood coming from her nose.’
The prosecutor said that in the hours after Ms Millane died, the defendant engaged in a number of internet searches, including for the Waitakere Ranges, where her body was found.
He also used Google to search for ‘the hottest fire’, he said.
‘It’s plain that Ms Millane is dead at that point,’ Mr McCoubrey said.
‘What (the defendant) is trying to do is find a place to dispose of her body.’
‘He wasn’t distressed or concerned by her death,’ Mr McCoubrey said, adding that the defendant then began searching pornographic websites.
The Crown alleged the defendant broke off his internet search to take seven intimate photos of Miss Millane’s body.
The defendant then resumed searching pornographic websites, before searching for ‘large bags near me’ and ‘rigor mortis’.
Security footage showed the defendant later purchased a suitcase from a business on Elliott Street in the city centre.
Defending, Mr Brookie told the jury it was ‘understandable’ they may not like what his client did after Miss Millane’s death but it does not make him guilty of her murder.
He is not challenging the prosecution’s case that he watched a string of pornographic videos, taken elaborate measures to dispose of the body and gone on another Tinder date while Grace lay dead in his room.
As the Crown had earlier detailed, he had bought a suitcase into which he crammed the 21-year-old’s dead body and used a hire car to transport it to dense woodland where he buried it.
The defendant also bought cleaning products and hired a Rug Doctor machine to clean Grace’s blood from his carpet, and later lied to police about leaving her alive and well on the street after sharing drinks on their Tinder date.
But Mr Brookie said: ‘The evidence of these events is unlikely to assist you much with what happened earlier.
‘What it establishes is what he did when he was confronted with this shocking and unexpected death.
‘Some people act badly and are unable to confront the situation responsibly.
‘I ask you only only to keep an open mind about this, listen to the evidence, make of it what you will, then make up your mind. It’s too soo to do it now.’
Mr Brookie said the defendant ‘accepts his actions did cause Miss Millane’s death.’
But he added Miss Millane dying was an ‘unforeseen and unintended consequence. ‘It’s an accident as part of casual sex between two people who were intoxicated.’
Mr Brookie said it was widely recognised that restriction of the throat was a practice that ‘can enhance sexual pleasure’ and with the right technique could be acted out safely.
‘It is clear this couple did not have that knowledge,’ he said. ‘What’s important here is that they were both keen to give it a go and they did.’
The defence would be be forced to go into detail about both Grace and the defedant’s sexual history and practices with other people, said Mr Brookie.
‘The defence is not doing this in any way to suggest that Miss Millane is to blame, she is not to blame, but because the Crown say he is to blame, we need o show you why he is not. He is certainly not criminally responsible.’
The defendant, wearing a dark suit and open necked white shirt, was allowed to take a 15-minute break from dock after breaking down in tears while the timeline of Miss Millane’s death was read out to the jury.
Her parents appeared to stare long and hard at him as he was first led into the dock and they sat 20 feet away in the front row of the packed public gallery.
The trial, due to last five weeks, continues.