Grace Millane murder trial: Latest updates as prosecutors, defence present opening arguments

Warning: This article contains content that may disturb some viewers.

The Crown and Defence have made their opening remarks on Wednesday in the trial of the 27-year-old accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane.

The defendant - who cannot be named for legal reasons - allegedly murdered Millane in December 2018 - a charge he denies.

The British woman's body was discovered in the Waitakere Ranges on December 9 last year after being missing for a week. The search operation and news of Millane's death received considerable media attention, with vigils and marches being held in her honour.

On Monday, the jury of seven women and five men were selected. They were told by presiding Justice Simon Moore to forget anything they know about the case and consider only the evidence put forward by the prosecutors and defence when they decide the accused's fate.

These live updates are now over.

3:40pm - Following questions to Detective Lewis Sin, who helped transport the suitcase to a mortuary and keep charge of the body, proceedings finished for the day.

The trial will continue at 10am on Thursday.

3:17pm - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie has cross-examined Detective Ingley. Det Ingley confirmed the accused was taken by police to the Waitakere Ranges scene on December 8.

2:45pm - Detective Ingley has described the moment police believed the suitcase found at the bottom of a hole in the Waitakere Ranges contained human remains.

Det Ingley says the suitcase was lifted from the burial hole, flipped onto its back and put onto a sterile sheet. From there it was taken to a bench near the scene where a doctor opened it slightly.

The medical specialist told Det Ingley he believed it held human remains. The detective says he saw what he believed to be "flesh".

2:37pm - Proceedings at the Auckland High Court have begun again.

Detective Ingley has shown the jury pictures of the suitcase which contained Millane's body found in the Waitakere Ranges "gravesite".

The suitcase photographed at the bottom of the burial hole was covered with a dusting of soil.

1:30pm - The jury has retired for the lunch break until 2:15pm.

1:15pm - Detective Evan Ingley has provided a description of what he called a "gravesite" in the Waitakere Ranges.

An area of about 2 metres by 1.5 metres was found roughly 10-15 metres away from a carpark in the Waitakere Ranges on December 9. It was covered in broken ponga tree leaves and ferns "haphazardly", Ingley said.

"You could see small areas where clay had been overturned under those ponga leafs and ferns."

Specialist officers were dressed in protective clothing as they were concerned about contaminating the scene where they believed there was a possibility Millane could be found.

12:45pm - Detective Evan Ingley - who was involved with the police operation at the Waitakere Ranges - has taken the stand to speak about officers' actions there prior to the discovery of a body.

12:35pm - The proceedings at the Auckland High Court have been briefly paused after the accused reported not feeling well.

12:25pm - Grace's father, David Millane, has been crying in the gallery as his statement is read out.

12:15pm - David says while he knew about Grace's previous relationships in England, he didn't have full knowledge about her use of dating applications or sexual activity.

12:05pm - A statement provided by Grace's father, David Millane, is now being read out by the Crown. In it, the father describes Grace's background growing up in England as well as about her wider family.

The statement says that before Grace's death, the family were regularly updated on her journey, including with photographs. He knew she was staying at the backpackers.

12:02pm - The defendant appears to be crying in the dock while the defence gives its opening statement. He is rubbing his eyes and blowing his nose with a tissue.

12:00pm - The defendant's actions on the day after the pair met are now being discussed by defence lawyer Ian Brookie. He says the defendant's "post-death conduct" should not be given undue weight. He says that will not help the jury in assessing what happened in the CityLife hotel apartment.

Brookie has concluded his statement by saying that the defendant accepts his actions caused Millane's death. However, he says it was an accident.

11:55am - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie has begun his opening remarks by telling the jury they must remember these statements are not evidence, but just each side introducing their cases.

"The defence says to you that this is not a murder," Brookie has told the jury.

The lawyer says what happened was a fairly typical encounter between two young people gone wrong.

He says they had sex and to increase pleasure, the defendant placed his hands on Millane's neck, which she encouraged.

He says that act between an inexperienced couple went wrong.

"[It was an] unforeseen and unintended consequence. Put simply this death was an accident. He certainly didn't murder her," Brookie insists.

11:50am - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie has begun his opening remarks by telling the jury they must remember these statements are not evidence, but just each side introducing their cases.

11:35am - The Crown has wound up its opening statement to the jury. Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey says one of the main things the jury will have to consider is if the defendant intentionally meant to kill Millane during sex on December 1.

If it had been an accident, the prosecutors ask why the defendant purchased cleaning products and a suitcase, didn't contact emergency services, went on another date, and at one stage lied to police.

The defence will soon make a short opening statement.

11:25am - The Crown says any suggestion the defendant accidentally caused Millane's death should be dismissed by considering the actions of the accused.

Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey says the defendant tried to calmly and methodically break any link between him and the death.

"He was covering his tracks."

The prosecutor says if something had gone wrong or if Millane had become unconscious during a sexual encounter, one would think the defendant would have called emergency services. The Crown says the accused did not do this.

The defendant is also said to have lied during an initial interview with police. The Crown says the man said he had parted with Millane after having drinks with her, which CCTV footage of them entering CityLife highlights is not true, the prosecutor says.

11:15am - The Crown says that the defendant's version of events is that after sexual activity in the hotel room, the pair ended up on the floor.

He was sweaty, so he went to have shower, in which he passed out. He says he woke up and didn't see Millane in bed, thinking she had left the room.

After going back to sleep and waking up in the morning, the defendant said he found Millane on the floor, with blood coming from her nose.

Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey says the jury will have to consider if the defendant's actions afterwards reflected someone who was distraught at finding the body of a dead woman.

He said Google history from the defendant's phone reveals that early in the morning of December 2, the defendant was browsing pornographic websites as well as searching about the Waitakere Ranges and the hottest type of fire. He also took photos of Millane naked.

The prosecutor says among other things on December 2, the defendant purchased cleaning products as well as hiring a RugDoctor and a car. The accused also went on a date with another woman in Ponsonby.

11:00am - Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey says that a pathologist will take the stand during the trial to speak about a bruise discovered on Millane's neck.

McCoubrey says the Crown alleges Millane's death was caused by sustained pressure to her neck.

He says a pathologist will say there were also other bruises on her chest which may have been caused by a form of restraint.

10:47am - The Crown says Millane and the defendant met on the dating application Tinder. They went on a date on December 1 and visited various restaurants and bars in Auckland Central, including Andy's Burger Bar. The Crown said CCTV footage proves this and one image shows they were happy around each other.

"They were plainly comfortable in one another's company that evening."

10:45am - Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey has begun his opening remarks, saying that Grace Millane died in the CityLife hotel after going to the establishment with the defendant.

Her body was later found in the Waitakere Ranges off Scenic Dr. He said these events are not in dispute, but what happened in the hotel is.

10:18am - Justice Moore has reiterated his comments from Monday to the jury, including that they should approach this trial dispassionately and without prior bias.

He said they should not be making their own inquiries about the case online.

 

10:16am - Wednesday's proceedings have begun. Justice Simon Moore has entered the courtroom, followed by the defendant into the dock as well as the jury who have taken their seats.

The accused is wearing a navy blazer and white shirt and has kept his eyes on Justice Moore.

9:53am - Millane’s family are sitting in the public gallery, which is overflowing with people.

The British backpacker’s parents walked into the courtroom holding hands and flanked by Detective Inspector Scott Beard.

9:15am - Grace Millane's parents David and Gill arrive at court.  

David and Gill Millane arrive at court for the start of the trial of the man accused of murdering their daughter.
David and Gill Millane arrive at court for the start of the trial of the man accused of murdering their daughter. Photo credit: Newshub

 

9:00am - The trial will continue at the Auckland High Court at 10am. The prosecutors - led by Brian Dickey and Robin McCoubrey - are expected to lay out their case, before the accused's lawyers - headed by Ian Brookie and Ron Mansfield - state their defence.

Newshub.

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