Britain

Grace Millane: Last image of British backpacker alive

By Stephen D'Antal in Auckland

British backpacker Grace Millane told her best friend she had "clicked" with the man accused of strangling her to death, with CCTV footage showing the pair enjoying a date together during her final hours alive.

Half an hour of video has been shown to the jury in the murder trial at Auckland High Court, where Ms Millane's parents watched from the public gallery.

One sequence of the footage shows Ms Millane, from Wickford in Essex, taking a picture of a Christmas tree that she sent them while she waited to meet her alleged killer for the first time.

Image: Grace Millane died in New Zealand last December
The suspect cannot be identified for legal reasons
Image: The suspect cannot be identified for legal reasons

It was the university graduate's last contact with her family, who on Thursday watched CCTV material covering almost her entire date with the murder suspect in the New Zealand capital last December.

The film showed them meeting outside the Sky City casino, drinking at a succession of bars and entering the CityLife hotel where the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was living.

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In a final scene timed at 9.41pm on 1 December, which was the eve of Ms Millane's 22nd birthday, the couple are seen exiting the hotel lift and heading to his apartment.

Ms Millane had arranged to meet the 27-year-old after connecting through Tinder the previous day.

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Detective Adam Bicknell told the jury he had been in charge of tracing their movements through the city as part of Operation Gourami – the code name for the police investigation into her disappearance.

He said his team had looked at hundreds of hours of film captured over six days.

The pictures of Grace in the lift at the City Life Hotel were the last of her seen alive
Image: The pictures of Grace in the lift at the CityLife Hotel were the last of her seen alive
Grace meets the defendant for the first time
Image: Grace meets the defendant for the first time
Grace and the defendant kissing in the Bluestone Room bar, he has his arm around her
Image: Grace and the defendant kissing in the Bluestone Room bar, he has his arm around her

The footage shown on Thursday began at 5.11pm and showed the defendant entering the Bluestone Room.

Half an hour later, Ms Millane, in a black dress, was seen leaving the Base backpackers' hostel where she was staying and then walking through rain-soaked streets towards Sky City.

Ms Millane was shown arriving at Sky City in front of its 20ft Christmas tree, where she stood waiting at 5.45pm and could be seen using her phone – seemingly sending parents David and Gill the photo of the tree.

Within minutes, the defendant walked into view, approaching Ms Millane and giving her a hug before they headed into the casino and found Andy's Burger Bar, where they ordered drinks.

Ms Millane was last seen entering the CityLife hotel in Auckland. Pic: TVNZ
Image: Ms Millane was last seen entering CityLife hotel in Auckland

They left at 7.12pm and walked back out past the Christmas tree towards a Mexican cafe, where they stayed for an hour, sharing two jugs of margaritas and one of sangria.

They were later seen at the Bluestone Room, where the accused had earlier been drinking beer alone, and kissed several times during their hour-long stay.

Receipts showed they had drunk Heineken, cider and two tequila shots before they left, and at 9.40pm they were seen hugging as they entered the lobby of CityLife.

They headed to his apartment via the lift, where it emerged Ms Millane had been encouraged to go by her best friend and she found out he was an oil company manager who lived at a hotel.

The CityLife hotel apartment where Grace Millane died
Image: The CityLife hotel apartment where Grace Millane died
Police used luminol to show traces of blood on the carpet
Image: Police used luminol to show traces of blood on the carpet

Ameena Ashcroft, who had been at Lincoln University with Ms Millane, shared a string of texts her friend while she was out on her date.

In a statement read to the jury in court, Ms Ashcroft, who was in Dubai at the time, said: "I was a bit concerned but I didn't show Grace that I was.

"I felt something was weird that she was on a date with a manager of an oil comRead More – Source