A JURY in New Zealand has delivered a guilty verdict in the trial of a 27-year-old man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane.
The decision was announced on Friday afternoon at Auckland High Court, while Grace’s parents David and Gillian sobbed and held hands.
Grace Millane died by strangulation on the eve of her 22nd birthday in December 2018[/caption]
The decision came at the end of a three-week trial, which the 21-year-old’s parents had been in the front row throughout.
When the verdict was read out, Grace’s mother broke into silent sobs at what brings to an end an 11-month saga of pain for the close-knit family.
Millane, from Wickford, Essex, had arrived in New Zealand in November 2018 as part a round-the-world tour after graduating from Lincoln University.
The backpacker, who had spent time in Peru prior, then met the accused man – whose name was supressed – on December 1.
The pair had been on a Tinder date and returned to the local man’s hotel room following hours of drinking across several bars.
Millane’s contorted body was later discovered in a suitcase, buried in woodland near Auckland.
Lawyers of the defendant had argued the Brit had died during “rough” sex after consensual choking went wrong.
It was agreed that Millane had died by strangulation on the eve of her 22nd birthday, and on the following day, the killer purchased the suitcase.
Before the decision was made at the end of the three-week trial, Justice Simon Moore has outlined both sides of the case to jurors.
Graces strangulation followed a Tinder date with a 27-year-old man[/caption]
The man admitted to strangling Grace, but her death, the defense argued, was a result of ‘rough sex gone wrong’[/caption]
Grace’s parents, David and wife Gill, watched from the front row of the public gallery every day during the three-week trial at Auckland High Court[/caption]
Justice Simon Moore advised the jury to put their personal opinions of the accused lifestyle and sexual choices aside when making their verdict[/caption]
He told the seven women and five men on the jury that although it was clear the accused had lied repeatedly to police, that was not enough to convict him.
Moore added that although the jury might have sympathy for a woman who “should have been here on a happy and exciting adventure,” emotions needed to be put aside while the case was assessed.
The judge had advised the jury to ignore their opinions on the sexual interests and lifestyle choices of the accused, adding that they would need to be convinced “beyond doubt” that the accused used reckless press when applied to Millane’s neck.
The judge summarized the evidence of three medical experts and stated that death by erotic asphyxiation was “rare” and not something often seen as an accident during consensual sex.
The consensus, Moore said, was that applied pressure to Millane’s neck needed to have been strong and sustained, and if the pressure had been released in the five to 10 minutes it had taken her to die, being a young and fit woman, she would likely have recovered.
Prosecutors also relied upon the account of a female witness who had claimed the defendant smothered her during sex.
For the jury to return a verdict of murder, they would have to be “sure” that the accused caused Millane’s death by applying pressure to her neck, and that he was guilty of “culpable homicide,” meaning “blame-worthy homicide, the blame-worthy killing of one person by another.”
During the trial the court heard how the accused also arranged another Tinder date while Grace lay dead in his rented apartment at a hotel in the inner city.
The prosecution also described how the man had taken “intimate” pictures of Millane’s dead body, viewed porn while she lay dead in the room, and searched the likes of “rigor mortis.”
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The defense argued that Millane was alive when the photos were taken and that such Google searches – which included Waitakere Ranges, where Millane’s remains were found – were “random.”
Grace’s parents, property developer David and his wife Gill, watched from the front row of the public gallery every day of the three week-trial at Auckland High Court.
A member of the accused’s family was also present.
Grace Millane was from Wickford, Essex[/caption]