A 28-year-old New Zealand man who murdered a British backpacker has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 17 years by an Auckland court.
Grace Millane died on the eve of her 22nd birthday on December 1, 2018 after meeting a man through Tinder, going out for drinks with him, and then returning to his hotel apartment in central Auckland.
British tourist Grace Millane.Credit:Facebook
Prosecutors said the man, whose name has been suppressed by the court, strangled Millane to death, but defence lawyers said the pair had been engaged in consensual erotic choking that went too far.
After she died, the man stuffed Millane's body into a suitcase, drove to the Waitakere Ranges forest and buried her in a shallow grave, where police found her body a week later.
The court also heard that the accused took intimate photos of the victim after her death and went on another date arranged on Tinder the following day.
Millane had been travelling through New Zealand as part of a planned year-long trip abroad after graduating from university.
The court on Friday heard three victim impact statements via audio-visual link from Millane's family in Essex.
"I am absolutely heartbroken that you have taken my daughter's future and robbed me of so many more memories that we were going to create," her mother said.
The man was convicted for the murder by a jury on November 22 last year and was sentenced on Friday.
Grace’s parents David and Gillian Millane arrive with Detective Inspector Scott Beard, left, at the Auckland High Court for a previous hearing.Credit:Getty Images
Justice Simon Moore said in court that the biggest decision in sentencing the killer was settling on the minimum number of years he must spend in jail without chance of release.
"In your case, life imprisonment must be imposed," he told Grace's killer.
"But what I must determine is the length of the non-parole period of this sentence.
"The defence says it should be 12 years minimum, however the Crown says it should be 17 years."
Following the formal reading of his sentence, Grace's killer was immediately escorted from the courtroom by two security guards.
He did not appear emotional to those present in the courtroom.
Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey told reporters outside the court, the sentence was "what he'd asked for" and he was happy with the result.
He said he had spoken to Grace's family on the phone and they "seemed happy” with the sentence.
"Today marks an end to the long and difficult time for the Millane family," he said.
Auckland Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey addresses the court on Friday. Credit:Getty Images
"Even though their lives had been changed forever, with help from family and friends they can finally move on with their lives."
Beard thanked the NZ Police who had worked hard over the investigation, and the New Zealand public.
"This sentence is a reflection on the gravity that the murder has had on the people of New Zealand and in the United Kingdom," he said.
The man who killed Grace, whose identity has been suppressed, being interviewed by police.
He said he hoped it would give some comfort to Grace's family and friends as they come to terms with the "senseless killing".
"I've spoken to the family, they are pleased with the sentence but they won't get Grace back," he said. "No matter what the outcome was today, they will forever have a life sentence."
More to come
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