Essex

Grace Millane: Backpacker's body returned to family

Grace Millane Image copyright Lucie Blackman Trust
Image caption The University of Lincoln graduate arrived in New Zealand in mid-November

The body of British backpacker Grace Millane has been formally identified and returned to her family.

The 22-year-old from Essex disappeared in Auckland on 1 December. Police ended their search on Sunday after finding a body on the outskirts of the city.

Det Insp Scott Beard said the family was in "the process of organising to take her home in the next few days."

A 26-year-old man has appeared in court in New Zealand charged with Miss Millane's murder.

Miss Millane's family said she "went off to travel the world in mid-October and arrived in New Zealand on 20 November".

'Forever a Kiwi'

"By the amount of pictures and messages we received, she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle," they said.

"We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own overseas experience."

They called her death "heinous" but thanked police for completing a "concise, stringent and thorough investigation".

Miss Millane's father David has flown to New Zealand and visited the place where her body was found.

He took part in a traditional Maori blessing ceremony alongside Grace's uncle and members of the New Zealand police force.

They added: "We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion.

"Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi."

Image caption David Millane, Grace's father, visited the place where her body was found and took part in a traditional Maori blessing

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

Police believe she was killed between 1 December and 2 December.

Det Insp Bird said his team was building "a timeline of the circumstances".

"Work continues to piece together exactly what happened to Grace," he added.

Officers are looking for a shovel believed to be connected to the inquiry.

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