Essex

Grace Millane: Man appears in court charged with backpacker's murder

Grace Millane 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

A 26-year-old man has appeared in court in New Zealand charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane.

Miss Millane, 22, disappeared in Auckland on 1 December - police ended their search on Sunday after finding a body in the outskirts of the city.

The man, who cannot be named, is due back in court next month.

Court documents showed he had been living at the Citylife Hotel on Queen Street in central Auckland, which is where Miss Millane was last seen.

The judge acknowledged Miss Millane's family's grief "must be desperate".

Documents also showed police believe the University of Lincoln graduate from Essex was killed between 1 December and 2 December.

At a news conference, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was an "overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country".

"On behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologise to Grace's family," she said. "Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn't, and I'm sorry for that."

The body - which has not yet been formally identified but the police believe to be Miss Millane's - was found "about 10 metres" off Scenic Drive, a countryside road outside the city, Det Insp Scott Beard said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJacinda Ardern held back tears as she commented on the murder of British tourist Grace Millane

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

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

Floral tributes for the recent graduate have been growing outside the Willows Centre in her home town of Wickford.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A tribute at the roadside at the start of Scenic Drive

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

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.

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, between 06:30 and 09:30 local time on Monday 3 December.

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.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has added his condolences on Twitter, saying: "Grace Millane's murder was an unspeakable tragedy that has shaken us all."

He also thanked the New Zealand prime minister "for standing shoulder to shoulder with the UK with such grace and dignity which speaks volumes for the deep friendship between our countries".

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

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. 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. 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.


Analysis: 'Pensive and anxious'

By Hywel Griffith, Sydney correspondent

For many backpackers arriving in New Zealand, Auckland is the first stop on a carefree adventure around the country.

But Grace Millane's murder has left some here feeling pensive and anxious, reminding them just how far they are from home.

At the hostel where Grace had been staying, I talked to several travellers who spoke of their disbelief when they heard that she'd been murdered.

One had shared a dorm with her, and had traded stories and advice on where to go and what to see.

Another told me she remembered Grace's beaming smile and energy.

All wanted to stress how deeply they felt for Grace's family after such a sudden, incomprehensible loss.


Related Topics

More on this story