Exclusive: Millie Elder-Holmes on drugs, her partner Connor Morris' death and her new life

The chronicles of Millie Elder Holmes have sparked debate, outrage, heartbreak and fierce criticism. 

But behind the headlines and public opinion, there was a girl establishing who she was and struggling with issues beyond substance abuse.

Just days after the fourth anniversary of her partner Connor Morris' murder, the now-30-year-old has given an insight into her turbulent teenage years, growing up with her father, the late broadcaster Paul Holmes, and the traumatising loss of her partner of seven years. 

Millie Elder-Holmes
Millie Elder-Holmes pictured here with legendary New Zealand broadcaster Paul Holmes. Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

Disruption was never far from Millie despite a privileged upbringing and at a point, she lost her way. 

The popular blogger spent the first two years of her life living with her parents in Greece, between Athens and the island of Lesvos, although she has no memory of those early years. 

Her birth parents, Hinemoa Elder and Stratis Kabanas, met at a local scooter hire in Greece while Dr Elder was on holiday from London. 

When Dr Elder's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer she moved back to New Zealand, taking Millie with her. The pair stayed in New Zealand after the loss of Millie's grandmother. 

Dr Elder got a job in television where she met Paul Holmes - Millie's "second dad" who eventually adopted her. 

As a child, Millie wasn't dissimilar from others her own age, finding happiness in sports and the outdoors, with dreams of one day becoming a marine biologist.

Dr Elder and Holmes divorced when she was 10, and she spent time equally between his Remuera home in Auckland and her mother's on Waiheke Island. 

Millie enjoying the pool as a child as step-father Paul Holmes watched over.
Millie enjoying the pool as a child as step-father Paul Holmes watched over. Photo credit: Supplied

Millie was just one year old when Holmes first broadcast, and for the next 15 years, the veteran journalist was welcomed into homes at 7pm. 

"I didn't understand fame or that my dad was 'famous', he was just my dad. I was extremely privileged and spoilt, but at the time I thought it was so normal," she told Newshub.

"I didn't really fully grasp how hard my dad really worked, he just wasn't at home a lot, which for a child is hard to comprehend, and now looking back I am blown away by his work ethic and dedication to bettering his family and career.

"I remember many times going out with my dad places and people speaking to him in the street, which I hated; it felt very invasive for me, like I constantly had to share him with everyone."

Millie began to feel a sense of pressure, restlessness and unease. 

A teenage Millie poses with the late Paul Holmes, her step-father.
A teenage Millie poses with the late Paul Holmes, her step-father. Photo credit: Supplied

It triggered a rebellious streak within her and the once-aspiring model started lashing out. Though her behaviour was criticised by many and ultimately inexcusable, her loss of control was not without her own reasons. 

"I think after my parents got divorced, which was quite public, I began to learn more about my dad in Greece and really feel displaced or like I didn't really belong.

"My family's lives were constantly shared with the New Zealand public which placed a pressure on me. I was constantly worried about the opinions of others and how I was perceived in the public eye, everything was about upholding a good image and it was intense. 

"I had a lot of unsupervised time and I managed to drop out of school without my parents finding out for a good two months. I had a lot of opportunities and space to play up."

Her downfall started with changing friend groups and who she was hanging out, with which ultimately lead to her getting into drugs. 

She developed a yearning for wanting block out her sense of displacement and the harsh negative image of which she viewed herself. 

Millie with her birth parents, Hinemoa Elder and Stratis Kabanas, who had met at a local scooter hire in Greece while Dr Elder was on holiday from London.
Millie with her birth parents, Hinemoa Elder and Stratis Kabanas, who had met at a local scooter hire in Greece while Dr Elder was on holiday from London. Photo credit: Supplied

It was around her 18th birthday Millie smoked meth for the first time. She found out that the man she was dating was a dealer and despite initial shock, decided to try it. 

"I felt so distant from my family, I was questioning who I was and where I belonged I decided to create my own little family with the friends I choose, people who were less judgmental and stuck up than my parents' friends that I had grown up with," Millie told Newshub.

She had been using for "a good five years or so" from the first time that she had tried the class-A drug when there was a kidnapping attempt on her. 

"It was just a super traumatic situation, Connor made sure nothing happened to me, but it was a huge wakeup call that lead us to wanting a safer life."

When it came to ditching her substance abuse, she invited a whole new set of challenges into her life. One difficulty was that she had been using the drug as a form of escapism. 

Millie pictured recently in Santorini, Kamari.
Millie pictured recently in Santorini, Kamari. Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

"To be honest I didn't really want to stop, it was an exciting fast-paced life, and when all that stopped my life changed from that to being at home all day, just doing nothing. 

"In the start you think it's just a weekend thing or just for fun, but you do get hooked, and then you completely rely on that substance to get you through the day, you do things that you regret.

"I used to take my dad's petrol card and just spend up hard on it. I did so many hurtful things to my mum and dad, and my dad in Greece could only read about what was happening in the paper. 

"I made my little brother's life so hard at school. It's extremely selfish you punish not only yourself in the long run but those who love you the most.

"You also at some point if you stay in that life long enough associate with some really f***ing scary crazy people and put yourself in dangerous situations. I saw some f***ed up stuff that even haunts me to this day, shit that one would want to see, and that's damaging. You don't realise it at the time but you can scar yourself for life.

Millie at Nai Thon Beach in 2014.
Millie at Nai Thon Beach in 2014. Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

"I believe there is always a reason people start using - it's something to fill a hole, maybe you think that's the only life you deserve, or you do it to show your family you can be independent and you don't need the and it can be so fun and exciting, you can be having the best time, but you don't know that real life is passing you by. 

"I watched all my school friends complete university and move overseas and I wanted that so badly." 

She eventually accepted the consequences of her actions, which included pleading guilty to drug charges she was convicted of in March 2008 before facing new charges a year later. 

"I wish I knew about the damage I was doing to my body - they don't tell you about that. Your hormones your metabolism gets completely messed up, you ruin your body from the inside out.

"It took me years to balance myself out and I'm still, some 10 years on, suffering from hormonal issues."

Her road to recovery was documented across her social media and hope for Millie was formed when she and Morris committed to a life without drugs.  

Following a highly-publicised sentencing which saw Holmes initially rush to his daughter's defence before slamming the gang associates she had aligned with, her father eventually accepted Morris' love for Millie and supported their relationship. 

Millie Elder Holmes and Connor Morris, who died in 2014.
Millie Elder Holmes and Connor Morris, who died in 2014. Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

Millie had gained thousands of followers on Instagram across her private page and clean living blog, Clean Eatz NZ, and documented her journey and relationship with the Head Hunters affiliate and the safety they found in one another, swapping their former life of crime and revolt for sun-filled holidays and quality time at home in front of the TV.  

"It was f*****g hard. I put on a lot of weight, I think for a period I was around 87kg - everyone thought I was pregnant - I hated it but Connor kept me on track.

"I relapsed a couple of times but each time just reassured me I couldn't handle it anymore or the come down and sort of helped me to believe I needed to give in to a different way of life and to rely on something to push me each day."

Pictures of the loved-up couple travelling, creating memories and living their lives as one could be seen scattered across her Instagram. Millie was happy. 

So in August of 2014 when a random act of violence took Connor away from her, 18 months after Holmes died from cancer, she was once again faced with a choice.

"There were many times when I contemplated giving it all up, life seemed so pointless to me for a long period, and although the pain doesn't go away, it does fade and you find you can carry on."

The man who killed Connor Morris was Michael Murray. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 after taking a sickle-like tool to Morris' head when a fight broke out between two groups at Massey in west Auckland that August night. 

"I was so angry for the longest time, angry sad numb. I think now and last year were really turning points for me, some four years later, but I remember in the months after I was really done with everything, before Connor passed we had planned our lives out and to have that all gone so suddenly was just incomprehensible for me.

"I kept thinking what if he didn't walk up the drive way, we had literally been laughing and chatting 15 minutes before.

"I had videos of us on Snapchat, and then it just turned into the night from hell. 

"We used to see stories like that on the news at night as say to each other 'imagine losing a loved one like that, like in a car crash or something' and then it happened. 

"I kept asking myself, 'Why? Why us? Why him? What did we do to deserve this horror?'

"I couldn't get it out of my mind. I think in that first year I was so lucky to have his and my family for support, I don't want to think about how I would've tried to cope if I didn't have them around."

Millie says she doesn't hold grudges or ill-feeling towards anyone, including those who have betrayed her, however, Murray stands as the one person she wishes the worst for in this world. 

"I hate him with all my being; I don't think we got justice at all." 

Millie with her father Stratis Kabanas in Molyvos.
Millie with her father Stratis Kabanas in Molyvos. Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

In the aftermath of saying goodbye to her partner, Millie felt she needed to get away because her loss had been so public. 

Unable to go out without being noticed and surrounded by opinions on the events of that night, it was too much. 

"Relocating to a place where no one knew my life story let alone how my partner had died was a huge necessity and relief for me. It allowed me to connect and share my story with those who I decided were worthy. " 

Today, she is grateful for her biological father who offered her a safe haven in Greece.

"I couldn't imagine that with all my baggage that I have managed to find love again with someone who accepts me as a whole and cares for me so deeply, I'm grateful for the power I have acquired as a human being, and all the people who have been a part of my journey so far."

Her experiences have made her extremely aware of how precious time really is and she lives now to seize each day, take chances and be brave, although she admits she is also more cautious at the same time. 

Millie still has bad dreams, flash backs and triggers which make her relive the horror of helping Connor once he had been struck. 

"Movies with a lot of blood or death can set me off, as well as seeing fights in the street that freaks me out. I tend to imagine the worst possible outcome, in semi-dangerous situations." 

"To anyone who is going through anything traumatic, don't rush yourself, I was shocked at how quickly people expect you to process your grief, but in all honesty, it takes time and a lot of support. "

For the past two years she had expanded her social media platforms, today boasting more than 135,000 followers across her two Instagram profiles

Exclusive: Millie Elder-Holmes on drugs, her partner Connor Morris' death and her new life
Photo credit: Instagram / Millie Elder Holmes

After receiving and trialling hundreds of beauty and health products, Millie teamed up with Jeuneora two years ago, now endorsing the line as one she can proudly stand beside. 

"This is the first supplement I simply couldn't give up, the results I have experienced, which includes; rapid hair and nail growth, as well as improvement with overall condition of my skin, digestive health, bloating issues and energy are nothing short of amazing." 

After battling through the shocking and unexpected loss of Connor, Millie urges others dealing with trauma to find acceptance on their own terms. 

"I was shocked at how quickly people expect you to process your grief, but in all honesty, it takes time and a lot of support.

"I have learnt that happiness is a mindset, not a place you get to once you achieved certain things, because there is always the next thing to aim for.

"Choose to be happy, happy for the people in your life, the roof over your head; the smallest of things because to so many others these are the things they dream for, it's so easy to forget how blessed we really are.

"Life is so precious, too precious to throw away."