Grace Millane murder suspect 'went on Tinder date while body was in suitcase in room', court told

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

The suspect in the death of British backpacker Grace Millane went on a Tinder date while her body was in a suitcase in his room, a court heard.

The revelation came as the first evidence was presented in the trial of the 27-year-old suspect, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The suspect denies murder.

Ms Millane's family were also in court in New Zealand and her father wiped aside a tear as he heard his daughter’s body was found inside a suitcase a week after she went missing.

The 21-year-old from Wickford, Essex, was on a round-the-world trip when she arrived in New Zealand last November and went on a Tinder date with the man now accused of her murder.

The Crown alleged in Auckland High Court that the defendant strangled Ms Millane during rough sexual intercourse at his apartment in the centre of the city

The defence claims the death, on either December 1 or December 2, 2018 - the date of Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday - was accidental.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey countered that, saying: “Strangling someone to death with your hands isn’t inadvertent – all of the evidence points away from an accident."

The defendant allegedly first told police that the pair met for a drink then parted ways, but later admitted they engaged in rough sex involving biting and hitting which finished on the floor.

However, he insisted he did not realise she had died and had a shower before going back to bed.

“‘I woke up the next day and saw that she was lying on the floor.

"I saw that she had blood coming from her nose’,” Mr McCoubrey quoted the defendant as saying.

The body of Grace Millane was found in a forested area near Auckland Credit: Auckland City Police/PA

The prosecution claimed phone records showed the defendant had looked at pornography online multiple times after Ms Millane died and took seven intimate photographs of her body.

The records also allegedly showed he had searched online for “the hottest fire”, “large bags near me” and “Waitakere Ranges” – where her body was later found in the suitcase – before going on another Tinder date later that day.

He then hired a professional carpet cleaning device.

“If something had gone wrong, or someone fell unconscious and it was an accident, you’d expect someone to call for emergency assistance,” Mr McCoubrey said.

“But (the accused) had plainly gone to some lengths to break any forensic links between him and Ms Millane.”

Security footage showed the accused bought the suitcase and later used a trolley to take it from his apartment to a hire car.

Ms Millane’s remains were found inside the suitcase in a shallow grave off Scene Drive on December 9.

Footage from surveillance cameras in Auckland also captured Ms Millane up until she entered the defendant’s apartment.

“Only two people know what happened in that room, one of them can’t tell us, the other one hasn’t told the truth about what happened,” Mr McCoubrey said.

Defence barrister Ian Brookie said Ms Millane “died as a result of what they consensually engaged in together”.

The death happened during “an act designed to enhance her sexual pleasure” and with Ms Millane’s “knowledge and encouragement”.

The defendant wiped tears from his face as Mr Brookie added: “While his actions may have caused her death, he is not to blame.

“This death was an accident.”

A pathologist told the jury of seven women and five men that the cause of death was “pressure to the neck”.

Before Ms Millane’s body was forensically examined it was taken to Auckland Morgue, detective constable Lewis Sin told the court.

Gillian Millane, Grace’s mother, clutched a tissue over her mouth as Mr Sin said that earrings and a small metal tag inscribed with the word “freedom” were also found inside the suitcase.

The trial continues and is expected to last five weeks.