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  1. ITV Report

Man is found guilty of killing British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

A 27-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, whose body was found buried in a suitcase in New Zealand.

The young woman, from Wickford in Essex, was strangled by the man she had met on dating site Tinder and with whom she spent several hours drinking in the centre of Auckland on December 1, 2018.

The pair returned to his apartment and Ms Millane was killed either that night or in the early hours of the next morning - the date of her 22nd birthday.

The jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict after just five hours deliberation at Auckland High Court.

The killer stood emotionless, flanked by two corrections officers, as the verdict was read out. He was remanded and will be sentenced in February 2020.

Members of the jury and Grace's parents, David and Gillian, wept as the decision was delivered.

The couple have sat in the public gallery since the opening of the trial earlier this month.

Speaking outside the courthouse, the couple welcomed the verdict, her father adding: "The verdict of murder today will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family and friends of Grace.

"It will not reduce the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the past year.

"Grace was taken in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives have been ripped apart.

"Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever. She did not deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way during her gap year."

Her parents acknowledged the efforts of New Zealand's police, Det Insp Beard and thanked the prosecution team and the media.

"Finally we want to thank the people of New Zealand. I can't thank you enough for our your kindness and for opening your hearts to us,"

What happened during the trial?

The Crown successfully argued the man, whose name is subject to a suppression order, strangled her and shoved her body inside a suitcase before burying her in a forested area outside Auckland.

She was assumed missing and her father, David Millane, flew to New Zealand as local authorities spent a week searching until her body was found by police.

Grace Millane was killed after meeting a man on a Tinder date. Credit: Auckland City Police/PA

The defence had claimed the death was accidental and occurred during rough sexual intercourse.

Justice Simon Moore told jury members before they delivered their verdict that they had to be certain the man had murderous intent when he put his hands on Ms Millane's neck during sexual intercourse to convict him of murder, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Mr Moore asked: "Are you sure that when he applied pressure to Ms Millane's neck... Did he intend to cause injury?"

He further asked them to consider if the accused was willing to take the chance of Ms Millane dying due to his actions.

"If yes, then (the defendant) is guilty of murder," the judge said.

"In other words, (he) must have appreciated Ms Millane's death was a likely consequence... but was willing to run that risk."

Grace Millane was killed by a man she met on a date in New Zealand. Credit: PA

The court had been told Ms Millane had an interest in BDSM, with a previous sexual partner testifying they had used safe words and physical tapping to indicate when physical pressure became overwhelming.

During the trial the jurors heard from forensic experts who examined the accused's apartment for blood stains as well as Ms 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 Ms Millane was seen alive.