A 28-year-old man who murdered a British backpacker in Auckland has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 17 years, one of the longest sentences handed down to a murderer in New Zealand history.
- Man gets life sentence with non-parole period of 17 years
- Grace Millane’s mother said the killer had “taken my daughter’s future”
- Ms Millane met the convicted killer through dating app Tinder
The murder of 22-year-old Grace Millane from Essex shocked New Zealanders and raised questions about the country’s reputation as a safe, easy-going holiday destination.
Ms Millane went missing on December 1, 2018 — the day before her 22nd birthday — while on a backpacking tour through New Zealand after finishing university.
She met the convicted killer through dating app Tinder, the two are reported to have shared drinks before heading to his downtown Auckland apartment.
Police found her body several days later in a shallow grave in bushland just a few metres from a scenic drive in the hills located to the west of the city.
The man — whose name still remains suppressed by the court order — was found guilty of the murder by a jury on November 22.
Justice Simon Moore opted for a non-parole period of 17 years, one of the longest stretches ever handed down to a murderer in New Zealand, according to local media.
The judge said this was not a case where the strangulation was driven by rage or was premeditated — but Ms Millane was vulnerable and appeared to be restrained.
“You were in a position of total physical dominance,” the judge told the killer, according to New Zealand Herald newspaper.
“You were a stranger, she trusted you.”
The man confessed Ms Millane died in his apartment but pleaded not guilty to murder while his lawyers argued she died accidentally during consensual sex.
But prosecutors maintained the accused had murderous intent and that Ms Millane was strangled to death.
Justice Moore said in the minutes following Ms Millane’s death the man looked up pornography sites and then took intimate photos of her body, noting these were not the actions of a man in panic.
The man then transported Ms Millane’s body out of his apartment in a suitcase and buried it.
Thousands of people held candlelight vigils after Ms Millane’s death in a national outpouring of grief.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held back tears as she apologised to Ms Millane’s family on behalf of New Zealand.
Earlier in the day, Ms Millane’s mother Gillian read a statement in court via a video link from the United Kingdom.
The news that her daughter was found in a shallow grave would “haunt” her for the rest of her life, she said, according to the Herald.
Gillian said the killer had “taken my daughter’s future” and robbed her family of so many memories, the newspaper reported.