21 Feb 2020

Web of lies: The differing stories Grace Millane's killer told

3:05 pm on 21 February 2020

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

The web of lies spun by Grace Millane's killer was unravelled during his three-week trial in the High Court at Auckland last year.

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

Grace Millane and her killer pictured together on an image from CCTV. Photo: Supplied

Today the 28-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Here's a look back at the differing stories he told.

What he told Grace Millane

Millane was messaging her friend Ameena Ashcroft, who was in Dubai, while she was out with the man.

Ashcroft's statement to the police was read to the court.

Millane messaged Ashcroft to tell her she was on a date with a man who was the manager of an oil company.

"I was a bit concerned but I didn't show Grace that I was," Ashcroft said in her statement.

"I felt something was weird that she was on a date with the manager of an oil company."

Millane told Ashcroft that the man was also planning to visit London in 2019.

What he told police

The man was interviewed twice by the police before he was arrested and charged with Millane's murder.

In the first interview, he said he and Millane had parted ways in the central city at the end of their date.

Asked how the evening panned out, the man replied: "Yeah, pretty good. Yup. We drunk a lot of cocktails at the burger bar and we were having good conversations."

He said they planned to meet at Base Backpackers the next day.

"I tried to message her the next day on Tinder but I'd been unmatched and I was like, 'oh, what's going on here? I must have done the wrong thing'.

"So I went to go text her to find out all the details were for the next day and I'd been unmatched so that was that."

The man was pressed about where he last saw Millane. He said he didn't watch her walk away and instead got talking to a group of Chinese tourists.

He said he was heading down to the Viaduct to meet a friend for drinks.

However, he said the friend wasn't replying to his texts and calls and he stopped at a pub on Queen Street instead.

There, he drank at least 10 handles of beer and bought more drinks for other people - using cash.

But he couldn't remember what happened after he left the pub, some time between 10pm and 11pm.

He said he woke up the next day at about 10am and he suspected the hotel concierge had helped him up to his apartment.

But when he said he was getting black-out drunk at the bar, CCTV cameras showed him entering CityLife with Millane.

What he told his next Tinder date

The man met another woman for a drink while Millane's body was in a suitcase in his apartment.

The woman, who can't be named, told the court he told her all his friends were police officers.

"I thought it was a bit odd," she said.

The man told her he had been a sales manager at Woolworths in Australia and had just got a job at Fonterra, starting in a few weeks' time.

The woman said she was surprised to hear of his jobs and moved the conversation on to what he had been doing that day.

"He said he'd been trying to find a really large duffle bag but he'd been struggling to find one big enough for sports gear."

He mentioned at one point that his best friend was coming here to be a Crown prosecutor and he was taking a big pay cut because he was coming from Sydney.

The woman said she told the man she'd attended a murder trial where a young man had been put away for murder; telling him it was sad to see him jailed and also sad to see the victim's family in court.

"He said it's crazy how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their life," the witness said.

"He said he'd heard of, or knew of, a guy who had asked his girlfriend to have rough sex with him involving strangulation or suffocation.

"It had gone wrong and she'd died during the process and he'd tried to revive her but she couldn't be revived and she died and he got done for manslaughter."

The woman said she felt uncomfortable and changed the topic to travel in the South Island before he talked more about his friends being police officers.

"He said that they're [the police] having a really tough time right now, especially in the Waitākeres because a lot of bodies are going missing out there as it's a large area.

"Police dogs can only smell bodies buried more than four feet under ... so the police were having a tough time because lots of bodies were going missing in the Waitakeres," she said.

What he told another woman

A key Crown witness - woman who said she was suffocated by the man during oral sex - told the court she feared for her life as she struggled to breathe.

She said she kicked against him with all her might to try and get him off her.

When he finally did, she said he turned and asked in an accusing tone if she thought he had done it on purpose.

He then repeatedly accused her of not liking him and suggested he should kill himself, the woman said.

He then went to the bathroom and emerged saying he was in pain and that he had cancer.

That was when the woman was finally able to make her escape, telling him she was leaving to call an ambulance.

The woman said she found a lot of the things he told her weird - among them, he said he was related to an All Black and that he had gang connections.

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