Grace Millane murder: Man guilty of killing backpacker in New Zealand

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Media captionGrace Millane’s father David paid tribute to his daughter and said her murder had “ripped apart” the family

A man who strangled a British backpacker and hid her body inside a suitcase has been found guilty of murder.

Grace Millane was found buried in bushland outside Auckland, New Zealand.

A jury at the city’s high court rejected claims by the 27-year-old man, who cannot be named, that she died accidentally during “rough sex”.

Ms Millane’s parents David and Gillian wept in the public gallery as jurors convicted their daughter’s killer.

He showed no emotion as the verdict – reached after about five hours of deliberations – was read out.

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Lucie Blackman Trust

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University of Lincoln graduate Grace Millane was on a round-the-world trip at the time of her death

Justice Simon Moore said the defendant would be sentenced on 21 February next year.

Why can we not name the killer?

In New Zealand’s court system, the accused and victims can ask to have their name suppressed, which means it becomes illegal to publish it in newspapers, online or anywhere else.

The purpose is to protect people not yet proven guilty – but also to have a fairer trial by ensuring the jury is not prejudiced by media coverage.

Images can also be withheld. When the main suspect in the Christchurch mosque attacks, Brenton Tarrant, appeared in court, the judge ordered the media to blur pictures of his face.

Mr and Mrs Millane, who had flown to New Zealand to attend the trial, said the verdict would be “welcomed by every member of the family and friends of Grace”.

Speaking outside the court, an emotional Mr Millane said the family’s lives had been “ripped apart” by his daughter’s “barbaric” murder.

“Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever,” he said.

Jurors heard the defendant and Ms Millane had met via the Tinder dating app on 1 December last year, the night before Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday.

They spent several hours drinking cocktails in bars around Auckland before going to the defendant’s hotel.

Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, was found in the mountainous Waitākere Ranges a week later.

Prosecutors said post-mortem examinations found bruises “consistent with restraint” on her body, and that she had been strangled.

On the night of her death, the court heard, the defendant “wasn’t distressed or concerned by her death”, and set about making plans to dispose of her remains.

He “sexualised” the killing by searching for pornography, stopping at one point to take lewd photos of her corpse, prosecutors said.

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Media captionGrace Millane’s last movements were captured on CCTV

The following day, he went on a Tinder date with another woman while the body of Ms Millane remained in the hotel room.

He had bought a second suitcase in a bid to cover his tracks, as well as cleaning products and a shovel, jurors heard.

The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did not give evidence in his defence.

Ms 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 University of Lincoln graduate had been on a round-the-world trip, travelling in New Zealand for two weeks after spending six weeks in South America.

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