Britain

Parents of British tourist to face alleged killer as murder trial begins

By Stephen D'Antal, news reporter, in Auckland

The family of British backpacker Grace Millane are set to face her alleged killer in court in New Zealand as his murder trial begins.

David Millane and wife Gillian, from Wickford in Essex, have made the 12,000-mile journey to Auckland, where their daughter died after going on a Tinder date the night before her 22nd birthday last December.

The 27-year-old defendant, a New Zealander who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the Lincoln University graduate in the room of a city centre hotel where he was living full-time.

Image: The scene where Ms Millane's body was found

He appeared in the dock at Auckland's high court on Monday as a jury of five men and seven women was sworn in to hear the trial – set to last five weeks.

Dressed in a dark suit and black shirt and with his hair close-cropped, the suspect listened as Judge Simon Moore told more than 200 prospective jurors: "This story took the nation by storm, and that interest continues today."

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The judge said Ms Millane's death had prompted vigils and marches across the country and insisted that any potential jurors must tell him if they had taken part.

He said: "No juror is allowed to be swayed by feelings of sympathy or prejudice. If you can't give a promise that you will approach the trial with impartiality and even-handedness then you can't be a juror."

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Mr and Mrs Millane – whose daughter was travelling in New Zealand as part of a year-long trip abroad – spent part of the weekend being briefed by police and lawyers on the evidence they will hear in court.

They are expected to appear in the public gallery on Wednesday, when crown solicitor Brian Dickey will open the prosecution case and details of the death will be heard in public for the first time.

The results of a post-mortem have been suppressed by the court until now, and barrister Ian Brookie will also outline the defence case.

Detectives in New Zealand investigating the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane have found a body.
Image: The body was found in woodland west of Auckland

Ms Millane's body was found buried in dense woodland west of Auckland – a week after she was last seen on CCTV entering the CityLife hotel on the city's main street.

Ms Millane had begun a solo gap-year adventure weeks earlier after taking a degree in advertising and marketing, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru before arriving in New Zealand in mid-November.

She checked into a backpackers' hostel the day before her Tinder date.

Her disappearance became one of New Zealand's most high-profile criminal cases, and even prompted an apology to the Millane family from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn't, and I'm sorry for that," she told them in a speech.

"From the Kiwis I have spoken to there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality."

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