19 Nov 2019

Grace Millane trial: accused will not testify in his defence

11:29 am on 19 November 2019

The man accused of murdering Grace Millane will not take the witness stand in his own defence but has elected to call evidence.

Millane trial: blurred screengrab of police interview with accused.

The man charged with murdering Grace Millane being interviewed by a police officer in December 2018. Photo: Supplied

The 27-year-old man, who has name suppression, is on trial before a jury of seven women and five men in the High Court at Auckland this month.

One of his lawyers, Ron Mansfield, opened the defence's case this morning by telling the jurors they were in a court of law, not a court of morals.

"When it comes to the courtroom, we're interested in whether someone has committed a criminal wrong, not whether an individual or individuals think what they did was religiously, socially or morally wrong."

Over the course of the Crown's case, the jury has heard Ms Millane died of pressure to the neck in the man's apartment and that he later buried her body in a suitcase in the Waitākere Ranges.

The defendant told police Ms Millane instigated consensual choking after their Tinder date, and he panicked after waking up the following morning to find her lying dead and bleeding from the nose.

The jury has heard the accused watched pornography and Google searched 'Waitākere Ranges' and 'hottest fire' in the early hours of that morning.

It has also heard he took seven explicit photographs of Ms Millane, which the Crown argues were taken when she was dead. The defendant told police the pair took photographs of each other during sex.

This morning, Mr Mansfield told the jury his client's attempts to cover up Ms Millane's death may have been out of a fear no one would believe that it was an accident.

"As reprehensible as you find some of his conduct you might also, when you think about it logically, come to the conclusion that it tells you very little about what happened at the time Ms Millane died."

Ron Mansfield, lawyer for the man accused of murdering Grace Millane, opens the case for the defence at the High Court in Auckland, Tuesday 19 November 2019.

Ron Mansfield, lawyer for the man accused of murdering Grace Millane, opens the case for the defence at the High Court in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Mr Mansfield said some people may think if Ms Millane's death had been an accident the accused would have called the police, but people did strange things in stressful situations that they later regretted.

He told the jury there was no motive or forensic evidence of a physical struggle between his client and Ms Millane.

"None of the environmental evidence established that kind of assault. None of the people who were occupying the room right next door heard any disturbance, loss of control or anything during the course of that night."

Mr Mansfield told the jury they had heard "little" about Ms Millane's sexual interests; going on to tell the jury that this information would be put before them to help them in their task of deciding whether his client was to blame or not.

"No one is trying to shame Ms Millane or her family and no one is trying to blame Ms Millane or her family. I'm certaintly not suggesting that she's not normal.

"The evidence you have heard is that Ms Millane was a loving, bright, engaged, intelligent and well-liked young woman - and she was. That is her reputation. That should be her reputation; at the start of this trial and at the conclusion of it."

The lawyer said if anyone was to suggest otherwise it would tell them about that person's characer, rather than that of the Britsh backpacker.

Ms Millane was travelling through New Zealand on a worldwide OE when her family lost contact with her on the eve of her 22nd birthday last December.

They raised the alarm and investigators found her body in a suitcase buried in a shallow grave in the Waitākere Ranges a week later.

This morning Mr Mansfield impressed on the jury that their sole task was to decide if his client was guilty of murder, not whether his actions before or after her death were appropriate.

"Sadly, it needs to be recognised at the age of 26 that he was so insecure as to think that portraying himself in that way that women might be prepared to meet up with him through Tinder or engage in a relationship with him.

"Surely everyone in this court appreciate that that is not the way to attract or keep a partner. Perhaps it's sadly a reality of the Instagram age where everyone tries to present themselves in the best possible light, even if it's a fabrication or mirepresentation of true life."

The jury has been told the defence will call Dr Fintan Garavan, a pathologist based in Florida, who will give evidence via audio-visual link this afternoon.

The public gallery is filled to standing capacity, as it has been for the duration of the trial.

The trial before Justice Moore and a jury of seven women and five men continues.

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