Grace Millane's family praises 'heartbroken' New Zealand, reveals mum's cancer battle

Grace Millane's family has commended New Zealand's "heartbroken" reaction to her death.

The 22-year-old backpacker's body was found in the Waitākere Ranges last Sunday, a week after she was last seen at a central Auckland hotel. A 26-year-old man has been charged with her murder.

Her father David Millane has now returned to the UK with her body. 

Speaking to UK newspaper The Sunday Times, Ms Millane's family members reflected on their "two weeks of hell" since she disappeared on December 1.

The Times also revealed that Ms Millane's mother Gillian couldn't make the trip to New Zealand because she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. 

Her brother Michael praised the outpouring of grief from Kiwis in response to the murder, which prompted a nationwide discussion of how we can reduce violence against women.

Candlelit vigils have been held up and down the country, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally apologised to the Millanes in an emotional press conference.

"It just shows the despair of a nation against one person's actions," Mr Millane told The Times. "They are heartbroken."

The 29-year-old says his younger sister was following her dreams of seeing the world at the time of her death.

Ms Millane had been travelling in South America before she arrived in New Zealand in November, and had planned to go on to Fiji and Australia before returning home mid-2019.

"She had decided, 'Once I've done this bit, I want to go to the other side'," her brother told The Times.

"She had a passion to see the world before she settled into a job. Her mind was set that she wanted to do this thing."

One of the last things she did before leaving the UK was donate most of her long hair to the Little Princess Trust, a charity that provides cancer sufferers with wigs.

Mr Millane says what happened to his sister shouldn't scare other young people away from travelling the world.

"We all fly the nest," he told The Times.