Grace Millane killer appeals against murder conviction and punishment

6 August 2020, 18:24

Undated handout file photo issued by the Lucie Blackman Trust of Grace Millane whose murderer has begun the process of appealing against his conviction and his prison sentence
Grace Millane's killer is appealing against his conviction and his prison sentence. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The man who killed British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand has appealed against his murder conviction and punishment as his lawyers claim he did not get a fair trial.

A jury convicted the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, of strangling Grace Millane to death on her 22nd birthday in December 2018 after the pair met via Tinder.

Ms Millane went out for drinks with him before returning to his hotel apartment in central Auckland, where he killed her.

He stuffed her body into a suitcase, drove to a forest and buried it in a shallow grave, where police found it a week later.

Prosecutors argued in the trial that the man deliberately strangled Miss Millane to death, while defence lawyers claimed the death was accidental after the pair engaged in consensual erotic choking that went too far.

The jury found the man guilty and a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Handout cctv grab issued by Auckland City Police of Grace Millane inside a hotel lift with her murderer
Handout CCTV grab issued by Auckland City Police of Grace Millane inside a hotel lift with her murderer. Picture: PA

Lawyer Rachael Reed told the Court of Appeal judges that she was not seeking to excuse the man's "abhorrent" actions after Miss Millane's death, according to news organisation Stuff.

But she said the judge placed too much weight on those actions in determining the man's sentence.

Ms Reed also said the conviction had problems, including questions around the issue of consent, some of the expert evidence, and negative evidence given by other women about the man's character.

The killer was found guilty on 22 November 2019. Grace's parents David and Gillian Millane, wept after the verdict was read out, Nine Media's Stuff website reported.

The couple had sat in the public gallery since the trial began on 4 November, during which time they were accompanied by Detective Scott Beard, who led the search for their daughter.

Several jurors also cried after the verdict was delivered.

The killer stood emotionless, flanked by two corrections officers, as the verdict was announced.