Police find shovel linked to backpacker Grace Millane’s murder

Detectives investigating the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand have found a missing shovel they believe is linked to her death.

Auckland City Police said they were searching for the spade in connect with the murder of the 22-year-old from Essex, who was last seen on the eve of her birthday.

The force said on Thursday it had discovered the spade in the central west Auckland area after going through CCTV footage.

Grace Millane death
Grace Millane was travelling in New Zealand when she went missing (Lucie Blackman Trust/PA)

Detective Inspector Scott Beard said: “A shovel that was the subject of a police appeal in relation to the Grace Millane investigation has been located.

“The item was recovered by detectives earlier today, as a result of the continued examination of CCTV footage.

“It was located and seized in the central west Auckland area.

“Police would like to thank those members of the public who called the 0800 number with various sightings of similar items.”

A 26-year-old man, who cannot be named, has been charged with murder and appeared in an Auckland court on Monday.

The last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane was at 9.41pm on December 1, the day before her birthday, at the Citylife Hotel, when she was seen with a “male companion”.

Police initially launched a missing person inquiry for the University of Lincoln graduate after her parents became concerned that she did not reply to birthday wishes sent on December 2.

A week later, on December 8, police said they were treating the case as a homicide investigation and a day later a body was found in the Waitakere Ranges 10 metres away from the road.

Her body was formally identified on Wednesday, and police said her family were “in the process of organising to take her home”.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ms Millane’s said their “whole world turned upside down” after her disappearance.

They added: “Grace went off to travel the world in mid-October and arrived in New Zealand on the 20th November.

“By the amount of pictures and messages we received, she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle.

“We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own OE (overseas experience).”

Calling the crime “heinous”, the family also paid tribute to investigating officers for completing a “concise, stringent and thorough investigation”.

They added: “We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion.

“Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi.”

On Monday, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern gave an emotional apology to Ms Millane’s family, saying: “Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.”

“I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they would be experiencing and feeling right now.”