The man found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Millane was strangled to death during a sex act, crammed into a suitcase and buried in a New Zealand woodland after a Tinder date in December 2018, the day before what would have been her 22nd birthday.
The Guardian reports that the 28-year-old perpetrator, who cannot be named due to New Zealand media laws, appeared in Auckland’s high court on Friday morning, and his sentencing was overseen by Justice Simon Moore.
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“Manual strangulation is a particularly intimate form of violence… cold-blooded,” Moore told the man during the sentencing. “Your actions reveal a complete disregard for your victim.”
“You didn’t ring an ambulance, or call the police, instead you embarked on a well-planned and sustained and coordinated course of action to conceal any evidence of what had occurred in your room.”
What happened to Grace Millane?
The 21-year-old, from Wickford in Essex, arrived in New Zealand on 20 November 2018 from South America during a year-long trip around the world, after graduating from the University of Lincoln with a degree in advertising and marketing.
She was reported missing on 5 December by her family after failing to contact them on her birthday three days earlier.
Millane had last been seen on 1 December, when she met a “male companion” whom she had met on Tinder. She was captured on CCTV visiting a number of bars in Auckland city centre with the man.
ITV News reports that the pair “kissed repeatedly at the Bluestone Room [bar] before walking arm-in-arm a short distance into the lobby of the CityHigh hotel, where the defendant was staying”.
Millane was caught on camera following the defendant out of the lift on his floor just before 10pm. It was the last time she was seen alive.
The defendant alleges that the pair engaged in rough sexual intercourse involving biting and hitting. He told police that he then first fell asleep in the shower and later went to bed, but only discovered Millane’s body the following morning.
“I woke up the next day and saw that she was lying on the floor,” the defendant was quoted as saying. “I saw that she had blood coming from her nose.”
The suspect, whom Sky News identifies as a New Zealander, claims that the backpacker’s death was an accident and that she had asked him to hold her throat during sex as a way to increase her pleasure.
A massive search was launched after she was reported missing, leading to the discovery of her body in a suitcase in bushland on the outskirts of the city on 9 December. The suspect had been taken into custody the previous day.
The subsequent trial, which began in November 2019, saw the prosecution argue that the man “eroticised” Millane's death because of a “morbid sexual interest”, and the court heard how he had taken “trophy” photos of her body and watched violent pornography while her body lay in the room.
The key pillar of the man's defence was that Millane, 21, enjoyed “rough sex”, CNN reports, and that her death was an accident that came about as a result of consensual choking.
What happened this week?
This week, the man was sentenced to life imprisonment with orders that he serve a minimum of 17 years before he can be considered for parole.
Appearing in Auckland’s high court on a video link from the UK during the sentencing, Millane’s mother Gillian spoke to the man, saying: “You took it upon yourself to murder my beautiful Grace, an innocent young lady.”
“On a daily basis, I torment myself over what you did to my Grace,” she added. “The terror and pain she must have experienced at your hands, as a mother I would have done anything to change places with her. She died terrified and alone in a room with you.”
“You walked into our lives and destroyed Grace, in the pursuit of your own sexual gratification,” she continued: “Now my family will never be the same.”
Justice Simon Moore described the murderer's actions after the killing, including searching for pornography, as “conduct that underscores a lack of empathy and sense of self-entitlement and objectification”.
“You are a large and powerful man. She was diminutive. You were in a position of total physical dominance,” he added.
The Guardian says that the crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said the man’s crime against Millane had a “profound impact on young women’s sense of safety in New Zealand”, which has an extremely low murder rate, with “many reassessing their relationships with men, or dating life, and how safe they should feel”.
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