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Grace Millane murder: Man guilty of killing backpacker in New Zealand

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Grace Millane murder: Man guilty of killing backpacker in New Zealand

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Media captionGrace Millane’s father David paid tribute to his daughter and said her murder had "ripped apart" the family

A man who strangled a British backpacker and hid her body inside a suitcase has been found guilty of murder.

Grace Millane was found buried in bushland outside Auckland, New Zealand.

A jury at the city's high court rejected claims by the 27-year-old man, who cannot be named, that she died accidentally during "rough sex".

Ms Millane's parents David and Gillian wept in the public gallery as jurors convicted their daughter's killer.

  • The murder trial that gripped a nation

He showed no emotion as the verdict – reached after about five hours of deliberations – was read out.

Image copyright Lucie Blackman Trust
Image caption University of Lincoln graduate Grace Millane was on a round-the-world trip at the time of her death

Justice Simon Moore said the defendant would be sentenced on 21 February next year.

Why can we not name the killer?

The identity of Grace Millane's murderer cannot be disclosed for now due to a court suppression order that bans media from naming and picturing him.

The purpose in New Zealand courts is to protect people not yet proven guilty – but also to have a fairer trial by ensuring the jury is not prejudiced by media coverage.

Images can also be withheld.

Justice Simon Moore ordered that the suppression order which prevents naming the defendant would remain in place indefinitely until lifted by the court.

Mr and Mrs Millane, who had flown to New Zealand to attend the trial, said the verdict would be "welcomed by every member of the family and friends of Grace".

Image copyright Millane Family
Image caption Her family described Miss Millane as "our sunshine"

Speaking outside the court, an emotional Mr Millane said the family's lives had been "ripped apart" by his daughter's "barbaric" murder.

"Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever," he said.

Jurors heard the defendant and Ms Millane had met via the Tinder dating app on 1 December last year, the night before Ms Millane's 22nd birthday.

They spent several hours drinking cocktails in bars around Auckland before going to the defendant's hotel.

Image caption In the hours before she disappeared Miss Millane and the defendant were seen in the Sky City Development
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Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, was found in the mountainous Waitākere Ranges a week later.

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  • 'Solo backpacking didn't kill Grace'

Prosecutors said post-mortem examinations found bruises "consistent with restraint" on her body, and that she had been strangled.

On the night of her death, the court heard, the defendant "wasn't distressed or concerned by her death", and set about making plans to dispose of her remains.

He "sexualised" the killing by searching for pornography, stopping at one point to take lewd photos of her corpse, prosecutors said.

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Media captionGrace Millane's last movements were captured on CCTV

The following day, he went on a Tinder date with another woman while the body of Ms Millane remained in the hotel room.

He had bought a second suitcase in a bid to cover his tracks, as well as cleaning products and a shovel, jurors heard.

The defendant did not give evidence in his defence.

A 'pathological liar': The killer's step-brother speaks out

Image copyright TVNZ
Image caption The killer's identity is suppressed under New Zealand law

Following the verdict, the step-brother of the murderer spoke to television station TVNZ reporter Paul Hobbs.

The man, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, said he initially thought Miss Millane's death could have been an accident but when he saw the timeline of events, his view changed.

His step-brother, he said, was "a pathological liar that lies over pointless things and continues to lie until the point where he's got no out – absolutely no out – and then he just breaks down and cries and runs away.

"It's just absolutely terrible that a life had to be lost because of it."

He said he did not think his step-brother intended to kill Grace, but said: "In that moment he just kept going… and he took Grace's life."

In an interview with police, shown during the trial, the defendant was seen to break down in tears.

"His tears, to me, they're more tears for himself."

Apologising to the Millane family, he added: "I'm just so, so incredibly sorry for their loss.

"To know it's one of our family members – even though it's not our actions – it's very difficult, and I can't imagine the pain and hurt and what [the Millane family] had to go through for a court hearing… to me that's all because he doesn't have any shred of a decent human being inside him, and couldn't just confess to the fact he murdered her."

Tinder said it was "deeply saddened" by the case and "its thoughts were with the victim's loved ones". A spokesperson added that it was not planning to review its policies in the light of the murder but said "the safety of our members is a top priority" and that they were exploring new updates and technologies to enhance its safety efforts around the world.

Ms Millane's death prompted an outpouring of public grief in New Zealand with the country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologising to her family.

The University of Lincoln graduate had been on a round-the-world trip, travelling in New Zealand for two weeks after spending six weeks in South America.

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