THE parents of a young backpacker who died in New Zealand sat in court in New Zealand today while differing versions of her death were told to a jury.
The body Grace Millane, whose family have many Thurrock connections and her father was a former borough mayor, was discovered buried in a woodland grave close to Auckland.
A man, who cannot be named under New Zealand law, is accused of murdering her – though his defence says the death came about because of a sex game that went wrong. The suspect denies murder.
Her parents, David and Gillian, watched on as prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told the court she had been strangled until she bled through her nose. It was on December 1 last year, the eve of her 22nd birthday, that Grace and the 27-year-old man arranged to meet after connecting through Tinder the previous day.
The court was told Grace Millane and the man accused of her murder were spotted kissing on CCTV while on a Tinder date.
Footage shows them in bars and at the hotel where Miss Millane is alleged to have been killed.
During the date Miss Millane messaged a friend about the defendant, saying “I click with him”, the jury heard.
Referring to the footage “just short of six terabytes of data, which is a significant amount” was examined, detective Adam Bicknell told
It shows Miss Millane leaving the Base Backpackers hostel and walking to the Sky City entertainment complex, where she met and embraced the defendant.
The trial earlier heard how the man accused of Miss Millane’s murder went on a further Tinder date while her body was in a suitcase in his hotel room.
Referring to the messages she sent during the date, a letter by her university friend Ameena Ashcroft was read to the jury.
In it, she said Miss Millane told her she was “getting smashed” and the date was going “really good”.
In the hours before she disappeared Miss Millane and the defendant were seen at a burger bar and a Mexican cafe, before going to the Bluestone Room – all venues that are part of the Sky City development.
Footage shows they spent just over an hour at the venue, during which time the defendant leaned across and kissed Miss Millane lightly, before then putting his hand on the back of her head and kissing her in a more sustained manner.
They continued kissing and talking for a while, before leaving and walking arm-in-arm down the street and into the lobby of CityLife at 21:40.
They entered the lifts and Miss Millane followed the accused out of the lift to his apartment on the third floor of the hotel.
Prosecutors allege she was strangled to death in the apartment.
The defence team argues Ms Millane died by accident during consensual sex, saying “acts designed to enhance sexual pleasure went wrong”.
The court has been told he buried her later in a suitcase in the Waitakere Ranges, near Auckland.
Miss Millane’s death prompted an outpouring of public grief in New Zealand with the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologising to her family.
The young woman had been on a round-the-world trip, travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following six weeks in South America.
The trial is expected to last a month.