David and Gillian Millane: Dignified in the face of despair

Parents of victim Grace Millane outside court.
Parents of victim Grace Millane outside court. Photo credit: Newshub.

When an emotional David and Gillian Millane spoke to the waiting media on Friday evening, you could see the trauma in their faces as they paid tribute to their daughter Grace. 

The verdict of murder for the 27-year-old man who killed her - who still has name suppression - "will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family," David said. 

"It will not reduce the pain and the suffering we have had to endure over the past year."

It would have been a bittersweet moment for the family, happy and relieved they got justice for Grace, but knowing ultimately it won't bring her back. 

For parents who are still in the depths of grief, having to sit through the trial of the man who murdered their daughter is hard. 

Reliving Grace's final moments in a packed courtroom feels like life is dealing you another cruel blow when you are still reeling from the first one. 

Sitting in the same court as the man who murdered their daughter, watching CCTV footage of Grace's last moments, seeing her in the lift on the way to his room, hearing detailed accounts of how he tried to dispose of the body, would have been unbearable. 

If your child dies you hope someone would do the right thing and call for an ambulance so at least their body can be properly attended to. I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to watch footage of him taking Grace's body out of the hotel in a suitcase.  

To retain their level of grace and decorum was a tribute to them and to their daughter. We should remind ourselves of that from time to time, and be a little more decent to each other. 

I followed the trial closely, but couldn't quite bring myself to attend court. 

My daughter Emily was murdered in the UK in a case that had some similarities. Both girls were strangled alone in a room with their murderers. Both died on the other side of the world from their homes. Both met men who were deranged monsters and both should still be alive today.

Both Emily and Grace's lives were tragically taken at a young age.
Both Emily and Grace's lives were tragically taken at a young age. Photo credit: Supplied/GraceMillane/Facebook

I remember during Elliot Turner's trial when he was on the stand talking about Emily.

I calculated I could reach him before anyone could stop me. I looked down at my knuckles and they were white as I tensed, ready to rush at him in the dock.

I didn't want to hurt him, I wanted to shut him up. I could not bear him talking about Emily anymore.

I didn't rush at him him, I stopped myself.

I wanted to rise above him and his parents, who were also on trial. It was my way of honouring Emily. 

On Friday evening, I was happy for the family and for Grace. 

The attempts to smear her name during the trial, as if her belonging to certain dating apps somehow justified what happened, were a low blow. 

It was irrelevant. There is no excuse for what he did to her. As David said their daughter was taken away from them in the most "brutal fashion". 

He is right when he says the verdict won't reduce the pain. 

There is a long way to go yet, but at least they don't have to think about him anymore. That part is closed.

My only comfort to them now is that one day you will be able to think about Grace as who she was, not what happened to her. It makes the grief a little more manageable. 

I spoke with David during the trial. He told me he was having trouble sleeping. 

I hope he slept a little better on Friday night knowing they had brought justice for Grace. 

Mark Longley is the managing editor of Newshub digital. His daughter, Emily Longely, was murdered in 2011. 

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