GRACE Millane’s killer was today found guilty of murdering the British backpacker – as her sobbing family reveal their lives have been “ripped apart”.

The 21-year-old’s devastated parents paid tribute to their “sunshine” on Friday at the end of a gruelling three-week trial.

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PA:Press Association

Grace Millane was strangled to death on the eve of her 22nd birthday in December 2018[/caption]

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Grace Millane’s parents, David and Gill, paid tribute to their ‘sunshine’ outside Auckland High Court
AP:Associated Press
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Grace Millane’s killer, pictured at an earlier court appearance, is due to be sentenced in February 2020

Some members of the jury were also seen in tears as they delivered their unanimous decision after just five hours of deliberation.

But the 27-year-old killer displayed no emotion as he learnt of his fate.

Despite the guilty verdict the killer’s identity can still not be revealed for legal reasons.

Speaking outside Auckland High Court, dad David Millane said: “The verdict of murder today will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family and friends of Grace.”

Standing side by side with wife Gill, he added: “It will not reduce the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the past year.

“Grace was taken away from us in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives and family have been ripped apart. This will be with us for the rest of our lives.”

Grace was taken away from us in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives and family have been ripped apart. This will be with us for the rest of our lives.

David Millane, Grace's father

The 61-year-old property developer continued: “Grace was a beautiful, talented, loving daughter. Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever.

“She did not deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way.”

Grace Millane had arrived in New Zealand in November 2018 as part a round-the-world tour after graduating from Lincoln University.

The Brit backpacker from Wickford, Essex, met her killer on December 1, the eve of Grace’s 22nd birthday.

The pair had been on a Tinder date and returned to the 27-year-old man’s hotel room following hours of drinking across several bars.

Hours later her contorted body was discovered in a suitcase, buried in woodland near Auckland.

Lawyers for the defendant had argued the Brit had died during “rough” sex after consensual choking went wrong.

It was agreed that Grace had died by strangulation, and the following day, the killer had purchased the suitcase.


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Grace Millane vanished on December 1 while backpacking
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Getty Images – Getty

Grace Millane’s parents, pictured outside court, thanked the people of New Zealand for their support during the trial[/caption]

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PA:Press Association

Grace Millane died after a Tinder date with a 27-year-old man[/caption]

Only minutes after he had seen his his daughter’s murderer led away to the cells to await sentencing next February, Mr Millane paid tribute to the police and prosecution team who had secured the killer’s conviction.

He said he wanted to thank people of New Zealand, where news of the murder and trial has swamped media coverage.

He said: “They have opened their hearts to Grace and her family. I cannot express our gratitude enough for all the offers and gifts and kindness that we have received.

“We must return home and try and pick up the pieces of our lives day to day without our beloved Grace.”

WEB OF LIES

Before the jury headed off to deliberate on Friday, Justice Simon Moore had outlined both sides of the case to jurors.

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.

The man had first been snared by a message he left on Grace’s Facebook profile page the night before, as he waited to leave the Bluestone Room bar around the corner.

Contacted by police, he wove an elaborate web of lies, at first claiming he and Grace had parted as friends, planning to meet the next day.

Trapped by CCTV footage showing him buying the suitcase, however, the killer changed his story, claiming Grace had told him she had learned BDSM sex games with a former boyfriend and had asked him to choke her during intercourse.

The jury also heard of the killer’s history exaggerated stories and lies – such as having cancer and being a professional athlete.

Ahead of the deliberation, Justice Moore said 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.

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A trial into Grace Millane’s murder heard that the British backpacker had accessed BDSM dating site shortly before her death
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Stephen D'Antal

Grace Millane’s body was later found inside a suitcase[/caption]

BEYOND DOUBT

The judge had advised the jury to ignore their opinions on the sexual interests and lifestyle choices of the accused, too, adding that they would need to be convinced “beyond doubt” that the accused used reckless press when applied to Grace’s neck.

For the jury to return a verdict of murder, they had to be “sure” that the accused caused her death by applying pressure to her neck.

And they had to be certain that he was guilty of “culpable homicide,” meaning “blame-worthy homicide, the blame-worthy killing of one person by another.”

In summarising the evidence of three medical experts, the judge had 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.

‘EROTICISED HER DEATH’

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey had told the jury the killer had “eroticised her death.”

He added: “It’s not safe sex play that killed Grace Millane, it’s strangulation.

“At some point of which she lost consciousness and would have become limp and lifeless and he had to carry on.

“And if that’s not reckless murder someone will have to explain to me what is.”

Prosecutors had also relied upon the account of a female witness who had claimed the defendant smothered her during sex.

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 Grace’s dead body, viewed porn while she lay dead in the room, and searched terms like “rigor mortis.”

The defence argued that Grace was alive when the photos were taken and that such Google searches – which included “waitakere ranges,” the hills where her remains were found – were “random.”

As well as Grace’s parents, a member of the accused’s family was also present during the trial.

Following the verdict, at 5.45pm local time, the killer was brought back to the dock, wearing a dark suit and black open necked shirt, and told by Judge Simon Moore that he would be sentenced on February 21 next year.

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Getty Images – Getty

Grace’s parents, pictured outside court, David and Gillian held hands and sobbed when the verdict was read out[/caption]

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Auckland City Police/PA

Grace Millane was from Wickford, Essex[/caption]

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AP:Associated Press

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