Man accused of killing Grace Millane ‘went on another date while her body lay in his flat’

Grace Millane's twisted body was found inside a suitcase (PA)
Grace Millane's body was found inside a suitcase a week after she went missing (PA)

The man accused of murdering Grace Millane organised another date on Tinder while the body of the British backpacker lay on the floor of his apartment, a court has heard.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey said that the 27-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, organised the date the morning after the killing – on Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday.

The young woman from Wickford, Essex, was on a round-the-world trip when she arrived in New Zealand last November and went on a Tinder date with the man now accused of her murder.

The Crown alleged in Auckland High Court that the defendant strangled Ms Millane during rough sexual intercourse at his apartment in the centre of the city.

The defence claims the death, which took place on either on 1 or 2 December, 2018, was accidental.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 06:  Grace Millane's parents David (C) and Gillian (R) arrive with Detective Inspector Scott Beard (L)  at Auckland High Court on November 06, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand. A 27 year old man is charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, whose body was found  in bush in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges on 9 December 2018. There is currently a suppression order in place, prohibiting the publication of the accused's name. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Ms Millane's parents David and Gillian arrive with Detective Inspector Scott Beard (left) at Auckland High Court for the trial (Getty)

Mr McCoubrey countered that, saying: "Strangling someone to death with your hands isn't inadvertent – all of the evidence points away from an accident".

The defendant allegedly first told police that the pair met for a drink then parted ways, but later admitted they engaged in rough sex involving biting and hitting that finished on the floor.

However, he insisted he did not realise she had died and had a shower before going back to bed.

"'I woke up the next day and saw that she was lying on the floor. I saw that she had blood coming from her nose'," Mr McCoubrey quoted the defendant as saying.

The prosecution claimed phone records showed the defendant had looked at pornography online multiple times after Ms Millane died and took seven intimate photographs of her body.

The records also allegedly showed he had searched online for "the hottest fire", "large bags near me" and "Waitakere Ranges" – the area where her body was later found in the suitcase – before going on another Tinder date later that day.

A woman lights candles during a candlelight vigil for murdered British tourist Grace Millane at Cathedral Square in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A candlelight vigil was held for Ms Millane in Christchurch, New Zealand, after her body was discovered last year (AP)

He then hired a professional carpet cleaning device.

"If something had gone wrong, or someone fell unconscious and it was an accident, you'd expect someone to call for emergency assistance," Mr McCoubrey said.

"But [the accused] had plainly gone to some lengths to break any forensic links between him and Ms Millane.”

Security footage showed the accused bought the suitcase and later used a trolley to take it from his apartment to a hire car.

Ms Millane's remains were found inside the suitcase in a shallow grave off Scene Drive on 9 December.

Ms Millane's father wiped aside a tear as he heard his daughter's body was found twisted inside the suitcase "in the foetal position" a week after the British backpacker went missing.

Gillian Millane, Grace's mother, clutched a tissue over her mouth as Detective Constable Lewis Sin said earrings and a small metal tag inscribed with the word "freedom" were also found inside the suitcase.

Footage from surveillance cameras in Auckland captured Ms Millane up until she entered the defendant's apartment.

"Only two people know what happened in that room, one of them can't tell us, the other one hasn't told the truth about what happened," Mr McCoubrey said.

Defence barrister Ian Brookie said Ms Millane "died as a result of what they consensually engaged in together”.

The death happened during "an act designed to enhance her sexual pleasure" and with Ms Millane's "knowledge and encouragement”, he said.

The defendant wiped tears from his face as Mr Brookie added: "While his actions may have caused her death, he is not to blame.

"This death was an accident.”

The trial continues and is expected to last five weeks.