Almost a year after Grace Millane's death, a jury is dissecting the final moments of her life.

With AAP.

On December 1, 2018, British woman Grace Millane sent a message to her friend. She’d arrived in Auckland on holiday and had matched with a local man on Tinder. They’d been chatting, getting along well, and together planned a date for that evening.

The young Essex woman seemed excited to share the news.

“I click with him so well,” she wrote to her friend.

That man, aged 27, is currently standing trial, accused of Grace’s murder.

After more than two weeks, the final stages of the trial are underway in the Auckland High Court. Evidence has been presented, arguments given, and the final days of the young British tourist’s life dissected and interrogated.

New Zealand Crown prosecutors allege the accused, who cannot be named due to a suppression order, murdered Grace during their date, placed her body inside a suitcase and buried her in the Waitākere Ranges, a forested area outside Auckland.

The accused, meanwhile, claims she died as a result of sexual misadventure.

Here’s how the case has unfolded.

The day the messages stopped.

Grace Millane was on an around-the-world trip when she arrived in New Zealand on November 20; a trip of a lifetime, an adventure to mark the end of her university studies.

After a few days spent up north, she travelled to Auckland.

She’d been bombarding her loved ones back in England with images and updates of her journey. But on Saturday, December 1, the messages stopped.

After desperate attempts to contact her, Grace’s family reported her missing on December 5. Posters were plastered across the city. News bulletins showed her photograph. Still nothing.

Grace’s father, David, who had travelled to New Zealand to assist with the search, issued a plea for her safe return.

“Grace has never been out of contact for this amount of time,” he told New Zealand media a week after her disappearance. “We are all extremely upset and it’s very difficult at this time to fully describe the range of emotions we are going through.”

The accused was arrested and charged the following day. On December 9, he led police to her body.

The fatal date: what the court heard.

Grace met the accused on December 1. Together, they visited a number of bars in the city centre and had several drinks.

They kissed repeatedly at the Bluestone Room before walking arm-in-arm a short distance into the lobby of the CityHigh hotel where the accused was staying.

CCTV footage showed Grace follow him out of the lift at 9.41pm toward his apartment.


It was the last time she was seen alive.

CCTV showed Grace and the accused in the hours before her death. Image: Supplied.

Sometime that evening or early the following morning — what would have been her 22nd birthday — Grace Millane died as a result of pressure on her neck.

The defence has claimed in court that it was an accident, rough sexual play gone wrong. During a police confession prior to his arrest, the accused claimed that he and Grace had sex, and he later woke to find her unresponsive. He claimed he then "panicked" and disposed of her body.

Evidence was presented that Grace was interested in the sexual practice of BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism.

A British expert in sexual culture, Professor Clarissa Smith from the University of Sunderland, testified for the defence via video link, and according to The New Zealand Herald, told the court it is now more common for young people to dabble in "elements of kink".

"It's about playing with the idea and feelings of humiliation," she said. "But you want the feeling of being under control."

The prosecution has alleged the accused fatally strangled her.

Auckland Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey told the court that while Millane "had a modest interest" in BDSM, "so what?"

"She didn't ask to be killed," he said according to the Herald.

"You can't ask to be killed in this country, you can't consent to murder."


The aftermath.

As the trial unfolded this week, Grace's parents watched on, confronted with details about their daughter's final hours, face-to-face with the man accused of causing her death.

At one point during proceedings, Grace's mother, Gillian Millane, left the court in tears as detective Samuel Luker described a series of intimate photographs found on the accused's phone. The prosecution has alleged the images, taken in the early hours of December 2, 2018, were taken of Grace after her death - "trophy photos", the said.

grace millane
Grace Millane. Image: Instagram.

The detective also told the court that the man's phone was used to access pornography after Grace's death, also to browse websites for large duffel bags, suitcases and car hire.

Records showed the accused had searched online for "the hottest fire", "large bags near me" and "Waitakere Ranges" before going on another Tinder date later that day. He met the woman while Grace's body lay in his apartment.

The verdict.

Today, the jury of seven men and five women hearing the case was asked to decide whether Grace was murdered by her date after the pair went to his apartment, or whether she died by accident during consensual sex.

They will soon enter deliberations.

At the start of it all, in an opening address, the defence's Ron Mansfield described Grace as a "loving, bright, engaging, intelligent and well-liked woman".

"That is her reputation," he told the court, "and that should be her reputation and memory at the start of this trial and at the conclusion of it."