21 Feb 2020

Grace Millane's mother at sentencing: 'You have taken my daughter's future'

10:39 am on 21 February 2020

Warning: This story and related coverage of the trial contain graphic details that may be distressing for some readers

The man found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane is being sentenced today.

Gillian Millane makes a victim impact statement via audio-visual link from the UK at at the sentencing of the man convicted of murdering Grace Millane, 21 February 2020.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The 28-year-old, who has continued name suppression, strangled Millane in his CityLife apartment in central Auckland in November 2018.

He then cleaned his room and went on another Tinder date before burying her body in a suitcase in the Waitākere Ranges the next day.

In the High Court in Auckland this morning Millane's mother Gillian was one of three family members who read emotional victim impact statements to the court from the United Kingdom, via an audio-visual link.

"I am absolutely heartbroken that you have taken my daughter's future and robbed me of so many more memories that we were going to create," she said, addressing the killer.

Gillian Millane and her husband David were in the public gallery throughout the man's three-week trial last November.

She said David had become seriously unwell since returning home from the trial.

One of Grace's older brothers Declan also made a statement from the UK.

"It's tough to carry on life as normal following the destruction of our family. But it's one person who ripped it apart.

"How do you carry on with life? You've ripped our family apart and for what? There's no reason behind this unspeakable act."

Declan Millane said his sister had an extremely bright future ahead of her, and he missed her every day.

Sister-in-law Victoria Millane said she and Grace had become best of friends, and she was the little sister she had always longed for.

She said she had been left absolutely heartbroken by her killing.

"With a heavy heart I take my daughter, Harper, aged only two years old, to visit aunty Grace as often as I can.

"Harper knows that aunty Grace is laid at rest, but is still to young to understand the horror her aunt endured."

Tributes are left outside City Life Hotel, where the last sighting of British backpacker Grace Millane was.

Tributes are left outside CityLife apartment in central Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Grace Millane, originally from Essex, was travelling through New Zealand in the second leg of a worldwide OE before she was killed.

Her family were quick to raise the alarm after she didn't respond to messages on her 22nd birthday.

Parents David and Gillian Millane sat through the man's three-week trial at the High Court in Auckland last November.

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

Grace Millane's parents David and Gillian Millane arriving at the murder trial in November 2019. They are expected to watch the sentencing by video from the UK. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

CCTV cameras filmed the man and Millane bar hopping through Auckland's CBD at night on 1 December 2018.

They embraced and kissed in the last bar before being filmed entering the man's CityLife apartment at 9.40pm.

It was the Crown's case the accused strangled her to death, while the man's defence said her death was accidental after the pair engaged in consensual choking during sex.

A post-mortem identified a deep bruise to Millane's neck that confirmed her cause of death was pressure to the neck.

Both prosecution and defence experts agreed it would take between five and 10 minutes to kill someone by strangulation and a matter of seconds for them to pass out.

The defendant and Grace Millane hug when meeting for the first time at the base of the Sky Tower in Auckland.

During the trial the jury was shown CCTV footage of Grace Millane on a date in central Auckland with the man being sentenced today. Photo: Supplied

The man's internet history showed he looked up 'Waitākere Ranges', 'hottest fire', 'rigor mortis' and 'are there vultures in New Zealand' in the early hours of the morning.

He also took seven intimate photographs of Millane's body.

The man was filmed making several trips out the following day to fetch cleaning supplies and met another woman on a Tinder date in Ponsonby.

He woke up early the next day where he drove a rental car to buy a shovel he used to bury Millane's body in a shallow grave in the Waitākere Ranges.

The man initially lied to the police about the last time he saw Millane alive before backtracking to admit she had died in his apartment and he had moved her body to the Waitākere Ranges.

He did not elect to give evidence in his own defence, as is his right, but his lawyers did call a sexual culture expert who spoke at length about pornography, youth culture and BDSM practices.

The defence case was rejected by the jury whose unanimous guilty verdict meant it found Millane did not consent to the actions that killed her.

The sentencing hearing, which will be attended by a large contingent on media, will begin at 9am.

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