Essex

Grace Millane died 'accidentally during sex', murder accused claims

Grace Millane Image copyright Lucie Blackman Trust
Image caption University of Lincoln graduate Grace Millane had been travelling alone in New Zealand

A British backpacker died when consensual sexual activity "went wrong", a court has heard.

Grace Millane died on 1 December, the night before her 22nd birthday, while travelling in Auckland, New Zealand.

A 27-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies her murder.

His defence told Auckland High Court Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, died accidentally after being consensually choked during sex. The defendant has chosen not to give evidence himself.

Prosecutors allege he strangled Ms Millane before disposing of her body.

'Not murder'

The court heard the pair had met through dating app Tinder and after drinking cocktails for several hours had returned to his hotel room at CityLife in Auckland's city centre.

Ron Mansfield, defending the man, told the jury: "If the couple engaged in consensual sexual activity and that went wrong, and no-one intended for it to go wrong, then that is not murder.

"And that is what [the defendant] has said took place, and that is what at the end you will be told the evidence reveals."

He said that while death from consensual choking was "rare", it was dangerous "if two people are inebriated, relatively inexperienced and don't know each other too well".

Image copyright TVNZ
Image caption Grace Millane was found buried in the Waitakere Ranges, near Auckland

The man has admitted putting Ms Millane's body in a suitcase and burying it in the Waitākere Ranges, a mountainous woodland area outside Auckland.

He told police he had "freaked out" after finding her dead in the morning after their date.

"He may not have done the right thing afterwards for fear no-one would believe him," Mr Mansfield told the jury.

The defence claims Ms Millane had not suffered any injuries other than those the man said had occurred during sex, and neighbours had not heard anything which would suggest an argument had taken place.

Mr Mansfield added he was not seeking to attach any blame or shame to Ms Millane for any sexual interests she may have had.

Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Miss Millane died on the night before her 22nd birthday

The court heard in statements from friends that she had discussed an interest in BDSM sexual conduct and had profiles on BDSM dating apps.

Forensic pathologist and toxicologist Dr Fintan Garavan told jurors Ms Millane's injuries would "favour consensual" acts as there were no signs of a struggle.

The trial continues.

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