‘I click with him’: Court sees CCTV of Grace Millane’s last moments on date with her accused killer
Murdered British backpacker Grace Millane texted a friend that she "clicked" with the man accused of her murder while on a date with him the night she died, a New Zealand court heard yesterday.
Ms Millane, 21, and the accused 27-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons, were seen on CCTV footage "plainly comfortable… plainly enjoying themselves", in the words of the prosecutor Robin McCoubrey.
Ms Millane, a marketing graduate from Wickford, Essex, had visited South America, including Chile, Patagonia and Peru, before she disappeared after arriving in New Zealand in November last year.
Her father David told the court in Auckland on Wednesday that the family had heard from Ms Millane “virtually every day” during her journey, until December 1 – the day before what should have been her 22nd birthday.
Her mother Gillian is also attending the trial.
The court heard Ms Millane arrived in Auckland on Nov 30 and connected with the accused on the dating app Tinder that day.
The following day, they met at SkyCity and spent the evening together.
Ms Millane messaged a friend to tell her about the date, saying she was "getting smashed" on the date, and added: "He is coming to London next year."
She added, in what is believed to be the last message she sent: "I click with him so well."
The pair were seen on CCTV going into a Mexican bar and ordering two jugs of margaritas and one of sangria before going back to Auckland’s CityLife Hotel, where he lived.
CCTV footage showed the two kissing in the lift before entering the accused’s serviced apartment at about 9.41pm.
On the accused’s phone police found that at 1.29am the following morning he had searched for the phrase “hottest fire” online, as well as for the Waitakere Ranges – where Ms Millane’s body was found buried on Dec 9, before watching pornography.
The accused also allegedly took seven photos of Ms Millane’s body.
On Dec 5 he googled "flesh-eating birds" and "are there vultures in New Zealand?"
A post mortem examination found she died as a result of pressure on her neck.
The accused has pleaded not guilty to murder, with his defence admitting he buried Ms Millane’s body but arguing he did not intend to harm her.
The New Zealand Herald reported that the accused claims they had “increasingly rough sex” and that he fell asleep in the shower afterwards and awoke to find her on the floor bleeding from the nose.
His lawyer Ian Brookie told the court “this was not a murder… these actions were part of sexual activities that they were doing together and they were in no way intended to cause any harm to her”.
The prosecutor said the man then hired a car and bought a suitcase, stuffing Ms Millane’s body into it.
He messaged another woman to confirm a date he’d arranged earlier on Tinder, and talked to her about how somebody could get in trouble for manslaughter after rough sex that went wrong.
"He doesn’t seem concerned by the presence of a dead body in his apartment but goes up the road to have a date with another woman at a bar," the prosecutor said, according to RNZ.
"You may think he’s testing out a version of events he may later have to rely on, to see how it sounds."
Grace Millane’s disappearance and news of her death sparked an outpouring of grief in New Zealand, with vigils around the country, and a national discussion about violence against women.
Late last year former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the country may have the worst rate of violence against women in the developed world.
At the National Council of Women conference in Auckland in September 2018, Ms Clark said the government needed to recognise that violence against women was “a national crisis” and make a determined effort to “fix it”.