Grace Millane murder trial: Accused's previous Tinder matches give evidence

Three Tinder matches have described their experiences with the man accused of killing Grace Millane to a jury at the Auckland High Court.

The 27-year-old man - who has name suppression - is on trial for the murder of the British backpacker in Auckland's CityLife hotel in December last year. The Crown alleges the man murdered the young Brit via strangulation, but the Defence argues her death was an accident during a form of consensual rough sex.

Monday marked the start of the second week of the trial, with three women - all who have their identities suppressed - testifying about their interactions with the man after matching with him on the dating application Tinder. Millane and the man also met via the app.

More coverage of the trial can be found here.

'I was terrified… this can't be the way I die'

 

One of the women described matching with the man on Tinder in March 2018. She met him for drinks in Newmarket, after which the pair had "normal" sex. However, it was their meeting later that year in November that was the focus of her evidence on Monday.

The woman said the pair met in Auckland Central on November 2 and went to the CityLife hotel, popping down to the dairy to get wine and beer.

After roughly three and a half hours inside the hotel room and a few alcoholic drinks, the accused began to tell the woman how much he loved her. The woman told the court he then kissed her and tried to lead her to the apartment's bed by grabbing her arm.

However, she said to him she was on her period and didn't want to have sex. Eventually, though, they did have oral sex.

At some point during this interaction, the woman said the 27-year-old sat on her face with his genitals near her mouth and nose, blocking her ability to breathe.

"I started kicking, trying to indicate that I couldn't breathe," she told the jury.

She described her kicking as "violent" and said she was using her full force to get him off her. It is her opinion that he knew she couldn't breathe. 

"I was terrified… He just sat there. He didn't move at all."

Trying to signal to the man she couldn't breathe, she lay limp, hoping he would think she had passed out. Still, the man didn't move, the woman said.

She began thinking about her family and friends, fearing for her life.

"This can't be the way I die."

Suddenly, she said, the man got up and asked her what was wrong. She said she was in a state of shock and disbelief, but managed to say to him that she hadn't been able to breathe.

The woman said the man then asked her: "You don't think I did that on purpose?" He then said it was clear she didn't like him and didn't want to be with him, before saying: "I should go kill myself", referring to himself.

The witness said she remained in the apartment for a period of time as she was scared he would follow her if she left. 

But the man eventually went to the bathroom and came back saying he was in pain. The woman said she used this as a means to leave, telling the man she would go to get help.

The woman left, but in the day afterwards, the man kept messaging her. She would put off meeting him again, telling him she was busy. She avoided talking to him about what had happened when they previously met as not to "aggravate him". Considering she had told him a lot about her life, the witness said she was scared he would get angry and find her.

Ron Mansfield.
Ron Mansfield. Photo credit: Getty.

However, this was questioned during cross-examination by Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield. The lawyer asked why, throughout extensive messaging between the pair in the days after they met in the CityLife hotel room, the woman never raised her allegations that he stopped her breathing. 

Mansfield pointed to messages he suggested implied she wanted to continue seeing him. One message the woman sent to the accused asked what his plans were. Another included an "X", which the lawyer said indicated a kiss.

The witness explained by saying she was "fearful" of the man and didn't want to get him angry by making accusations against him or cutting off the conversation. She also didn't want the man to turn up at places she could be - like her university - that she said she told him about in the hotel room.

Hundreds of messages between the pair were discussed on Monday, with Mansfield frequently asking why the woman didn't just ignore the man if she was scared of him.

"I was afraid he was going to show up in my life... blocking his call won't make him forget all the things I told him," the woman replied on one occasion.

The lawyer put it to the witness that during the date between the pair, no specific personal details were shared by the woman - something she didn't accept.

Mansfield also suggested the woman was claiming she never wanted a relationship with the accused as she is embarrassed she wanted to see someone who is now charged with murder. She said that wasn't true and asked why she would open her life up to everyone in court if she didn't have to.

The Defence lawyer asked if it was possible that she began to lose the ability to breathe during an awkward sexual angle and the accused didn't realise. She said he definitely knew.

Her cross-examination will continue on Tuesday.

Grace Millane murder trial: Accused's previous Tinder matches give evidence
Photo credit: Newshub / Getty / Supplied.

November meeting with waitress

 

The first woman to take the stand on Monday - a waitress - told the jury the pair had engaged in a form of rough sex during a hook-up in late November. 

The woman said the pair went to a room in the CityLife hotel and talked for a while before having several drinks. The accused then kissed her and "it slowly moved to the bed".

Sexual activity then began, with the man choking the woman with one hand for a period. She told the court she encouraged this and that it gave her pleasure. In messages sent between the couple prior to the meeting, she spoke about her preference for rough sex - something she said he was also interested in. 

The woman said during sex he didn't use so much force as to leave marks. Under cross-examination, the women also said she didn't consider the sex violent and confirmed the man let go of her neck without her needing to signal that to him.

The woman said she never hooked up with the accused again, but did message him multiple times as she had left her glasses at his apartment. She saw the accused on the night of December 1 while he was at a restaurant with Millane and briefly talked to him, asking for her glasses back. He returned these on December 4.

Millane and the man in a CityLife hotel elevator.
Millane and the man in a CityLife hotel elevator. Photo credit: Supplied.

'Dominating and strangulation'

 

Another woman - who communicated with the accused for about eight months but never met him in person - told the court he mentioned liking "dominating and strangulation". She said he told her it made him feel "superior" and in control.

However, Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said no messages between the pair revealed any discussion of strangulation. She was adamant it came up some time, possibly over the phone during one of their few short chats.

The woman also told the court that on December 1 - the day the man and Millane would eventually go on a date - she was contacted by the accused. She said she got the impression he wanted to meet up with her for the first time. 

However, as she was busy moving houses, this never happened. She also "didn't feel comfortable meeting him with some of the things he wanted me to do".

But under cross-examination, the woman admitted there were no records of these messages or a phone call with the man happening on this day.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Newshub.

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