Essex

Grace Millane: Police find body in backpacker murder investigation

Grace Millane, 22, from Essex, who went missing in New Zealand Image copyright REX/Shutterstock

Police in New Zealand investigating the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane have found a body on the outskirts of Auckland.

Det Insp Scott Beard said the body was "believed to be Grace" but was yet to be formally identified.

A 26-year-old man currently being held by police has been charged with killing Miss Millane, 22, from Essex.

Det Insp Beard said the body was found "about 10 metres" off Scenic Drive, a countryside road outside the city.

He added it was an "unbearable time for the Millane family and our hearts go out to them".

"Any father, any parent in this situation will struggle," Det Insp Beard said. "We're putting a lot of support around him [Grace's father]. It's difficult because he's here with a brother from England and the rest of the family are back home."

Declan Millane, one of Miss Millane's brothers, shared some photographs of his sister online, alongside the lyrics to the chorus of song You Are My Sunshine.

The University of Lincoln, where Miss Millane graduated from earlier this year, paid tribute and said its community was "deeply saddened".

Image copyright Lucie Blackman Trust
Image caption The 22-year-old arrived in New Zealand in mid-November for the second part of her round-the-world trip

Miss Millane had been travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following a six-week group trip through South America.

She was last seen on the evening of Saturday 1 December.

The announcement on Saturday by police that Miss Millane was "no longer alive" followed a review of CCTV footage, the forensic examination of a hotel where she was last seen, and the discovery of a vehicle.

Police then announced on Sunday that a body had been found.

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Media captionNew Zealand Police investigating the murder of a British backpacker confirm the discovery of a body

The man who has been charged will remain in police custody until Monday when he is due in court, police said.

Det Insp Beard issued an appeal for anybody who saw a red Toyota Corolla rental car, which had been hired from a company in Auckland.

Image copyright New Zealand Police
Image caption Police said their focus is to "piece together exactly what happened" and want to hear from anyone who saw this car last Monday morning
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The body was found in an area of woodland in the Waitakere Ranges, which is a region of rainforest and beaches west of Auckland popular with hikers

Police said her family were "devastated" after being told the missing persons case had become a murder investigation.

Speaking at a news conference in Auckland on Friday, Grace's father, David Millane, described his daughter as "lovely" and "family-orientated".

He added that his daughter had been "bombarding us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures" before she went missing.

New Zealanders have been expressing sadness at the news. Ruth Dyson, an MP for Port Hills in New Zealand's Parliament, was among those who offered condolences on social media, tweeting that her country is grieving with Grace's family.


Timeline of Grace Millane's disappearance

20 November: Grace Millane arrives in New Zealand after visiting Peru as part of her year-long round-the-world trip.

1 December, 19:00 local time: Miss Millane is seen on Victoria Street in the city centre of Auckland at around 19:00 local time. A short while later - 15 minutes - she is seen on CCTV at Sky City, a complex of hotels, restaurants, bars and a casino.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police released CCTV images of the backpacker at Auckland's Sky City entertainment complex before she disappeared

1 December, 21:41: Later that evening, she is seen with a "male companion" at Citylife Hotel on Queen Street, which is just a few minutes' walk from Sky City.

2 December: Miss Millane's 22nd birthday. She is not in contact with her family, which include her mother, father and two brothers.

At just before midday, a red Toyota Corolla hatchback rental car is hired from a company in central Auckland.

3 December: The red car is believed to have been in the west Auckland area between 6:30 and 9:30, police say.

5 December: Miss Millane is reported missing to police and a public appeal is issued.

7 December: Miss Millane's father, David, lands in Auckland and makes a plea for information.

Police say they have identified the male companion and have spoken to him.

8 December: A man, 26, is located at an address in central Auckland at 15:00 and is taken into custody.

Later that day, police announce they are treating the disappearance as a murder investigation.

Officers say the 26-year-old man is to be charged with Miss Millane's murder.

9 December: Police search an area of forest near Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges beauty spot.

Shortly after 16:00, police find a body which is believed to be Miss Millane, around 10m from the road.


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