Grace Millane killer jailed for 17 years

A 28-year-old man has been jailed for at least 17 years for the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand.

The killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, strangled the victim in a hotel in Auckland after meeting her via Tinder on December 1, 2018 – the day before her 22 birthday.

Her body was later found buried in a suitcase in a forested area outside the city.

Grace Millane death
Grace Millane (Auckland City Police)

The victim’s mother, Gillian Millane, appeared at the hearing at Auckland’s High Court via videolink and addressed the defendant directly, telling him her daughter “died terrified and alone in your room”, according to the New Zealand Herald.

The man in the dock kept his head bowed, rubbed his face and had his eyes closed, the newspaper reported.

The defendant claimed Ms Millane died accidentally after the pair engaged in rough sex that went too far.

A jury in November rejected that argument and found the man guilty

Jailing him for life with a minimum term of 17 years, Mr Justice Simon Moore told the murderer his actions amounted to “conduct that underscores a lack of empathy and sense of self-entitlement and objectification”.

Earlier on Thursday, a cousin of Miss Millane said the sentencing of her killer this week may not help her family to overcome their grief.

Hannah O’Callaghan told BBC Breakfast: “The sentence will not change the fact that Grace is gone.”

She remembered Miss Millane as a “fun-loving carefree individual” with much to look forward to.

The family have now set up a charity in her memory, called Love Grace, where handbags and toiletries are collected for domestic abuse victims.

The project is now running in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Britain.

Ms O’Callaghan described it as a “really fitting tribute” as it helps to make women “feel like they are worth something”.

It has also helped Miss Millane’s mother Gillian to grieve.

During the trial, the jurors heard from forensic experts who examined the accused’s apartment for blood stains as well as Miss Millane’s body after her death.

They were also shown footage of the woman and the defendant drinking at various bars throughout Auckland and kissing before they returned to his apartment.

Video footage from the elevator of her exiting on the third floor marked the last recorded time Miss Millane was seen alive.

Police officers said phone data showed the killer had used Google to browse websites for large duffel bags, suitcases and car hire after Miss Millane died.

The defendant’s phone was also used to search for “flesh-eating birds” and “are there vultures in New Zealand?”.

Records showed the defendant had searched online for “the hottest fire”, “large bags near me” and “Waitakere Ranges”.

Miss Millane’s death shocked many in New Zealand, which prides itself on welcoming tourists and where many people travel abroad themselves.

Hundreds of people attended candlelight vigils after she died, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about New Zealanders feeling “hurt and shame” that she was killed in their country.

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