Grace Millane murder: British backpacker's killer Jesse Kempson sentenced to life in jail with minimum term of 17 years

Sean Morrison
British backpacker Grace Millane was murdered in New Zealand: PA

The killer of British backpacker Grace Millane has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Jesse Kempson strangled Miss Millane to death in New Zealand on the night of 1 December 2018, the eve of her 22nd birthday.

Now 28, will spend at least 17 years behind bars for her murder after being sentenced at Auckland High Court on Friday morning.

Kempson killed her in his hotel room before burying her body in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Auckland.

He was found guilty and convicted of murdering the young woman, from Wickford in Essex, last November.

Miss Millane's mother Gillian, speaking to the court via a video-link on Friday, confronted her daughter’s killer as he was jailed for life.

Gillian Millane holds a family photograph during her televised victim impact statement from her home in the UK (Getty Images)

Addressing the murderer directly in an emotional statement read from the family home, she spoke about her daughter's final moments.

She said: “The terror and pain she must have experienced at your hands, as a mother I would have done anything to change places with her. She died terrified and alone in a room with you.”

Mrs Millane added: “The tears I shed are never-ending at the thought of never having the chance to kiss my Grace goodbye.”

In the dock, Kempson kept his head bowed, rubbed his face and had his eyes closed, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Murder typically comes with a life sentence in New Zealand, so at stake at the sentencing was the number of years the killer would serve in jail before becoming eligible for parole.

Prosecutors had argued for 17 years while defence lawyers said 12 was reasonable.

Jailing him for life with a minimum term of 17 years, Justice Simon Moore told the murderer his actions amounted to "conduct that underscores a lack of empathy and sense of self-entitlement and objectification".

Miss Millane had been in New Zealand for less than two weeks when she matched with Kempson on Tinder. She died the night they first met in person.

Her parents were forced to endure a three-week trial in Auckland. Her killer refused to give evidence and instead put Miss Millane's sex life in the spotlight.

Miss Millane, a Lincoln University graduate, was on a round-the-world trip when she was murdered.

She got in touch with the man, who would later kill her, through the Tinder dating app and they went for drinks in bars in Auckland on December 1.

They were caught on camera kissing and holding hands during the date, before walking back to the CityLife hotel where the man was living in a £190-a-week third-floor apartment.

Miss Millane messaged her best friend during the date, saying, “I click with him so well”. She added: “I will let you know what happens tomorrow.”

CCTV from the hotel lift showing her exiting on the third floor was the last time she was seen alive.

In the hotel room, Kempson pinned Miss Millane down and throttled her for at least five minutes.

He took photos of her naked body and viewed pornography on his phone, before turning his attention to covering up his crime.

Police said phone data showed the killer had browsed websites for large duffel bags, suitcases and car hire after Miss Millane had died.

Kempson was caught on camera buying cleaning products, a suitcase, and renting a car. At the same time he was arranging another date.

Miss Millane’s father flew to Auckland when her disappearance was being treated as a missing person inquiry.

Her body was found on December 9.

Kempson told a series of lies to police, including a claim that they had gone their separate ways after the date and he had spent the rest of the night drinking in a bar.

When his story began to unravel, he admitted killing her but insisted it was an accident that happened during “rough sex”.

He then mounted a defence at trial centred on evidence of Miss Millane’s sex life and interest in BDSM.

However, his defence was rubbished by a forensic pathologist, who said pressure must have been applied to Miss Millane’s neck for between five to 10 minutes, and he had never heard of an accidental death due to consensual sexual strangulation.

Justice Moore did not lift the suppression order banning Kempson from being identified in New Zealand. There is no date as to when it will be lifted, although it does not cover media organisations outside of New Zealand such as the Evening Standard. The Standard has geo-blocked this article from New Zealand.

Read more

Millane murder detective: Rough sex should not be a defence

Grace's mother confronts killer: She died terrified and alone with you

Family of Grace Millane: 'Killer's sentencing won't bring closure'