Grace Millane murder probe: Detectives identify ‘location of interest’

By Ryan Wilkinson, Press Association

A “location of interest” has been identified by detectives probing the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand.

Auckland City Police Detective Inspector Scott Beard said a scene examination was under way at a bush area on Scenic Drive, a countryside road on the city’s outskirts.

A missing person search took a tragic turn on Saturday when investigators announced that they believed the 22-year-old, who was last seen alive on December 1, had been murdered.

Grace Millane was travelling in New Zealand when she went missing at the start of the month (Auckland City Police/PA)

A 26-year-old man is due to be charged with the killing and police had been probing the movements of a vehicle around the time Ms Millane, from Essex, disappeared.

“Police investigating the murder of English tourist Grace Millane have identified a location of interest,” Det Insp Beard said in a statement.

“This is a methodical and slow process and is expected to take all day.

“At this stage we are not able to confirm whether Grace has been located at this site.”

A stretch of the road around 12mi from the city centre was closed on Sunday afternoon while investigators search the area.

Two large blue and white tents had been erected and investigators wearing white overalls were seen nearby.

Several vehicles, including marked police cars, were parked up at the side of the road.

Police stand along a section of Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges outside Auckland (Doug Sherring/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Scenic Drive snakes through dense rainforest in the Waitakere Ranges, which lie to the west of Auckland.

The location of interest which detectives appear to be focusing on is in the vicinity of the Waitakere Reservoir and dam, a beauty spot with hiking trails.

The road runs through the area from north to south, with the reservoir to the west and houses scattered to the east.

Ms Millane graduated from the University of Lincoln in September and had embarked on a year-long worldwide trip.

After visiting Peru, she arrived in New Zealand on November 20 and had been in near-daily contact with her family until December 1 – the day before her 22nd birthday.

The last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane was at 9.41pm the same day at the Citylife Hotel in central Auckland, when she was seen with a “male companion”.

Police received a missing person report on Wednesday and commenced a major search that saw dozens of people contact a special helpline.

Ms Millane’s father, David Millane, flew to Auckland and made a public appeal for help finding his daughter, who he described as a “lovely, outgoing, fun-loving (and) family-orientated”.

Det Insp Beard said the family had been left “devastated” after police uncovered evidence she had been murdered on Saturday.