What happened in the last hours of Grace Millane’s life

It is impossible to imagine how terrified Grace Millane must have been in her last moments alive.

A pathologist who explained how she died told a jury she was strangled and had bruises on her arms and chest "consistent" with being pinned down.

Dr Simon Stables said considerable force would have been required, and the pressure on her neck must have lasted between four and five minutes to be enough to kill her.

She had no chance. Her killer was heavily built and had a history of engaging in violent sex.

Grace, far from home, about to celebrate her 22nd birthday, had willingly gone to his hotel room. Until she entered the lift to his apartment, she appeared to have been enjoying her night.


Hours earlier she had messaged her friend, during a Tinder date with the killer, telling her: "I click with him so well."

It would be the last communication she would have with the friends and family she had left behind in Britain, those who loved her so much.

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Hours earlier, all the signs were she felt nothing other than excitement and optimism.

Image: Grace Millane heads out for the night from the Base Backpackers

Leaving the Base Backpackers hostel in Auckland, she strode out into the city centre streets dressed in a neat knee-length black dress, clutching a small handbag, just as the rain that day was coming to an end.

It was Saturday night – time for a fun evening of laughter and conversation with someone who had caught her eye on a dating app popular with many young people.

She had been in New Zealand for two weeks, the second leg of a solo world trip she had been looking forward to for months.

At the end of September 2018 – just over two months before she died – she wrote on Twitter: "Less than a month and counting", as she ticked off the days before her big trip began.

Grace Millane
Image: She walks through the December streets on her way to meet her date

Emojis on her social media feed hinted at her trepidation and excitement as she posted a gif subtitled "I'm going on an adventure!" on the day she headed out, first to Peru.

After moving on to New Zealand, with Christmas approaching, she set off to meet a man for a fun night out in the country's capital city on 1 December.

The man had had a busy few weeks and months on Tinder.

He had shared a number of conversations with women on the app, in which he told one he liked "feet, dominating and strangulation".

He boasted to another Tinder date that he was the cousin of an All Blacks star before they engaged in a sex act during which she had to fight for her life.

Then, days before he met Grace, he hooked up with a waitress which led to a night of what she described as "rough sex", during which he put his hand round her throat, after she asked him to.

As he prepared to join Grace on their night out, the man dropped into his local bar, the Bluestone Room, right next to the CityLife Hotel where he was living.

CCTV shows him downing four bottles of beer in the half hour before their arranged meeting, cutting a lonely figure in a drinking house well off the main drag.

Grace, meanwhile, was at the base of the Sky Tower early.

More video images showed her taking a photo on her phone of a Christmas tree to send to her parents, one of the many festive displays on show to get Aucklanders in the spirit for the coming weeks ahead.

The spot where they agreed to meet is very well known in New Zealand's biggest city. The Sky Tower is one of the most obvious icons on the city's sky line, visible for miles around and the focus of many events.

Most importantly, it was highly public and the sort of location where Grace should have felt safe to meet someone.

As the man arrived, the pair recognised each other almost immediately, and he gave her a hug as she smiled and moved towards him.

Their first stop was a burger restaurant and bar on the first floor of the adjacent Sky City complex.

Their entire time together at Sky City was caught on camera and the footage shown to the jury shows them chatting as they go up on an escalator to Andy's Burger and Bar, where they order cocktails from a barman and move on to a table to talk.

At some point, they must have discussed payment, as the man makes sure he is the one who uses a card to purchase the drinks.

An hour-and-a-half later, they leave the bar and head back outside and on to a restaurant less than a block away, the Mexican Café.

Grace Millane
Image: Grace and her killer drunk several cocktails in Andy's Burger and Bar

After another hour-and-a-quarter – two jugs of margarita and one of sangria later – the killer again arranges himself so he can pay the bill as they leave the café and head to the Bluestone Room, where he had been drinking alone earlier.

Another camera inside the bar catches them seating themselves at a table after apparently ordering drinks, chatting to a doorman and then continuing to talk.

The killer appears completely relaxed. It is obvious he is comfortable as he puts his arm around the man who goes on to serve drinks.

Grace Millane and killer
Image: Grace greeted her date with a smile when he returned to their table in the Bluestone Room

Grace too, seems very happy. She has been talking rapidly, appearing to be explaining something keenly to her date, smiling constantly and using her hands to emphasise what she is saying.

At 8.40pm, the man puts his hand behind Grace's head and pulls it towards his, kissing her for a second or so.

Over the next hour, they kiss several times more, only stopping briefly while first the man walks out of shot and Grace checks her phone – as it turned out, sending her final message to her friend. Then Grace walks out of shot, as he checks his phone.

Grace Millane and killer
Image: She was still smiling as they went to the CityLife Hotel where the man lived

In fact, it was this one act that led police right to him. He had gone on to his phone to post a message on her Facebook page.

Soon after 9.30pm, the footage shows them leaving and heading to the lobby of the CityLife Hotel, where they enter the lift, the killer fumbling for his keycard as they head towards Room 308.

Grace Millane and killer
Image: In the last image of her alive, Grace Millane goes up to her killer's room

Exactly what happened in the room after the couple arrived isn't known – apart from the fact that he murdered Grace.

What is known is that he didn't call anyone and ask for help when she died. There was no call to the emergency services.

Instead, at 1.30am on Sunday, as Grace lay dead in his room, he carried out a number of internet searches which indicate not just how unconcerned he was about her death, but how he was actively plotting to conceal it.

Grace Millane is said to have been choked to death during sex
Image: The scene of the crime

Using his mobile phone, he looked up "hottest fire" and "Waitakere ranges" – the location where he would later try to bury Grace in a shallow grace.

Then the killer trawled a pornography website called Porn Hub for videos to watch.

He also took seven intimate photographs of Grace's dead body, including close ups, manipulating her body to get the shots he wanted.

The following morning, with Grace still lying dead in Room 308, he texted another woman he had met on Tinder, trying to arrange a date for later that day.

Shortly after, he was again caught on CCTV, buying a suitcase.

In police pictures, released during the trial, a grey suitcase identical to the one he bought to remove her body can be seen in a nondescript modern hotel room with an unkempt bed.

Footage shows him going from his room to a leisure store to buy an identical suitcase, then to a supermarket to buy some cleaning products and then to a car hire firm.

Another picture shown in the trial was his room carpet stained by luminol, a chemical used by officers to reveal blood stains which have previously been cleaned up.

Police used luminol to show traces of blood on the carpet
Image: Police used luminol to show traces of blood on the carpet

He rented a red Toyota hatchback car and, as Grace lay dead in his hotel room, headed out in the afternoon to meet up with the women he had been texting earlier in the day at a bar in the trendy Auckland suburb of Ponsonby.

The woman, a former journalist who can't be named, but who like the killer was 27, found her date "very intense, quite calm though".

Soon after meeting her in a bar called Revelry he told her that all his friends were police officers and his closest friend was coming to New Zealand to be a Crown prosecutor.

As they discussed a murder trial she had once attended, he told her: "It's crazy how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their life."

Grace Millane trial
Image: The killer went on a date with an ex-journalist the next day

He then went on to say that he had heard about a guy who asked his girlfriend to have rough sex but it had gone wrong and she had died in the process.

The prosecution in his trial said they believed he was testing out the story he planned to peddle, on her, to see how it played out.

She said: "I think he was in his own world telling this story. I think I just felt a bit uncomfortable. I changed the topic to travelling in the south island."

He continued to tell a number of lies in the course of their conversation and she became increasingly uneasy.

Grace Millane
Image: He was filmed renting a carpet cleaner

When she left the bar, she said she avoided walking directly back to her car.

Despite her anxiety, he later texted her asking for another date, which she turned down.

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