23 Nov 2019

Killer's lies exposed as jury returns guilty verdict

10:12 am on 23 November 2019

Warning: This story and related coverage of the trial contains graphic and sexual details that may be distressing to some readers

It took a jury five hours to decide the man accused of murdering Grace Millane was guilty.

Grace Millane

A jury has rejected the defence's case that rough sex gone wrong caused the death of British backpacker Grace Millane. Photo: Supplied

The unanimous verdict meant the jury found the man had murderous intent or recklessness in his mind as he strangled her.

We'll never know which of these two pathways to murder the jury settled on but we do know it rejected the defence's narrative that it was rough sex gone wrong.

By his own defence lawyer's account, the man's actions after Ms Millane died were "reprehensible".

After she died, he cleaned his apartment and put her body in a suitcase before going on another Tinder date.

CCTV footage of the defendant in the Grace Millane murder trial with a rug doctor he hired.

The accused man was captured on CCTV with a Rug Doctor machine used for carpet cleaning. Photo: Supplied

He also watched pornography and looked up 'large sports bags', 'time in London', 'flesh eating birds' and 'are there vultures in New Zealand' online.

The man disputed taking seven intimate photographs of Ms Millane's body, and one of her foot, as she lay dead in his room.

He told police they'd photographed one another during sex but the images were timestamped after he Google searched 'Waitākere Ranges' and 'hottest fire'.

The man had told Ms Millane he was the manager of an oil company and continued to tell many lies after she died.

The man accused of murdering Grace Millane.

The convicted man told police several lies during their interviews with him. His name is still suppressed. Photo: RNZ/Dan Cook

He initially told the police they parted ways amicably after their Tinder date with plans to hang out the next day.

A random conversation with a group of Chinese tourists, a drunken singalong in a Queen St bar, and a hotel concierge who carried him to his room that night were also woven into his string of untruths.

It began to unravel when he admitted Ms Millane had died in his apartment and he had later buried her body in the Waitākere Ranges.

The police had questions, not least of which was why he didn't call 111 for help when he woke up to find her unresponsive on his floor.

The man said he'd freaked out; going further to say he and Ms Millane had shared such a special evening he didn't think he deserved to be alive if she wasn't.

A central bow to the Crown's case was the pathology evidence that fatal strangulation took between five and ten minutes and a person being strangled would lose consciousness before they died.

The prosecution said this evidence showed the man had to have wanted to kill her or recklessly injury her and the 12 jurors agreed.

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey at the HIgh court in Auckland makes his closing address in the trial of a man accused of murdering Grace Millane.

The jury agreed with the Crown's case, led by Brian Dickey, that the defendant sought to kill or recklessly injure Grace Millane. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Among the other evidence they considered was the story of a young woman who said the man suffocated her during oral sex and another woman who said the man had expressed a sexual interest in feet and strangulation.

The Crown does not have to prove motive but did propose that in this case the man "eroticised" Ms Millane's death and was motivated by his own sexual gratification.

Some of the jurors cried in court yesterday as Justice Moore told them it had been a difficult case and excused them from jury service for seven years.

They had sat, just as Ms Millane's parents did, through three weeks of evidence, including graphic images of Ms Millane's body on the man's phone and during the post-mortem examination.

The 27-year-old man, now a convicted murderer, will be sentenced on 21 February.

David and Gillian Millane arrive for the  murder trial of the man accused of killing their daughter Grace.

David and Gillian Millane were in the public gallery every day of the three-week trial. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs