Grace Millane murder trial: Live updates as Crown, defence present closing statements

Warning: This article contains graphic content that may disturb some readers

The jury in the trial of the man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane are hearing the final statements from prosecutors and the defence before they begin deliberating.

After more than two weeks of witness testimonies, the seven female and five male jurors have heard all the evidence to be presented in the trial.

Thursday marks their opportunity to listen to the Crown and defence's closing statements, which aren't considered evidence, but summaries of their respective cases and submissions about how the jury should consider what they have heard. 

The key point of dispute throughout the trial has been what happened inside Auckland's CityLife hotel between 9:41pm on December 1 and the early morning of December 2, 2018. 

The Crown alleges that after the accused and Millane entered the hotel following a roughly four-hour-long Tinder date, the man murdered the young woman. But the defence says her death was an accident during rough, consensual sex.

The closing summaries are expected to take the court through until the end of Thursday, before Justice Simon Moore sums up the entire case on Friday. The jury will then be free to deliberate.

More coverage of the trial can be found here.

These live updates have now finished.

5:05pm - The defence lawyer has finished his closing statement by reminding the jury that they can only convict the accused if they find the Crown proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

"You are the last line of defence on that," Brookie says.

He concludes that Millane's death was not a murder, but a "tragic, unintended, unforeseen" accident during consensual sexual activities.

Court has now finished for Thursday. Friday will see Justice Simon Moore sum up the case.

4:54pm - Brookie says the evidence by the woman who alleged the accused suffocated her shouldn't be given undue weight. He says it's an example of the Crown taking a different situation and trying to make it relevant to this case to "fill its evidential hole".

The defence lawyer says the woman's evidence must be considered within the context that after the woman's encounter with the accused, she kept messaging him, despite being scared of him.

4:37pm - Discussing the phone searches and intimate photos taken of Millane, Brookie questions whether the searches provide any information about what time Millane died.

He says the search about the Waitakere Ranges may have been the pair searching where they wanted to visit the following day. The search about fire could have been a mistake - "it could mean anything".

He asks where additional searches are about how to get away with strangulation.

Brookie also puts it to the jury that people often make random Google searches when drunk.

4:29pm - Brookie is now going over the December 6 interview. He says that the accused did lie, but questions the description of them as "elaborate".

He says the accused isn't a "cunning mastermind" playing with the police. If his plan to cover up the death had been calculated, the accused wouldn't have used his EFTPOS card, get caught on CCTV footage, or leave the shovel in the public.

4:22pm - The date the accused went on with a woman on December 2 is now being discussed. Brookie says the date had been largely planned in the days beforehand and that by going on it, the accused was keeping with his routine.

The lawyer says the accused bringing up the case of someone dying during sex and a man being convicted with manslaughter may show the accused as still grappling with what had happened with Millane.

4:15pm - Brookie says seeing Millane on the hotel room floor would have been a "high stress situation". His actions afterwards were motivated by the fear "he wouldn't be believed."

He says in such a situation some people may "do the wrong thing", such as not calling the authorities.

Throughout the Crown's statement, prosecutor Brian Dickey suggested the accused didn't appear panicked in the days after the alleged murder.

Brookie asks what the Crown expected him to do if he is trying to cover something up.

"Don't expect to see panic in everything he does… he has made that decision to try and cover it up. He has got to appear normal," Brookie tells the jury.

The lawyer says in the December 8 interview, the accused said he was shocked.

4:06pm - Another point the defence lawyer speaks on is the position of Millane's body. He says a diagram drawn by the accused - now lost by police - shows the body in a position that would not have been in the way of the accused walking from the shower to the bed.

Brookie says it was also dark enough that the accused may not have seen her.

4:00pm - Court has resumed with Brookie moving to discuss environmental evidence.

He notes that photos of the Luminol testing may appear to show a large glow, indicating a lot of blood on the hotel floor. However, he says forensic scientist Dianne Crenfeldt said blood may have been picked up in cleaning liquid and smeared around the room, making it look like there was more blood.

"Don't think… that when you see luminol reactions like this, that this is the original position of the blood."

Brookie says the amount of blood in the room could not be determined.

3:32pm - Brookie questions the lack of defensive injuries on Millane's neck as well as the fact there were no scratches on the accused that may have resulted from a struggle.

He also says to the jury that claims about Millane being pinned down are inconsistent with pathology evidence and submissions from the pathologists.

The lawyer tells the court that the accused's claim in the December 8 interview that blood came from Millane's nose was consistent with pathologists' evidence that this can happen.

Finally on the pathologists, Brookie says that while rare, death by mechanical apsyhixation during sex is reported to have happened as he contends it did here.

The court is now taking a short break.

3:24pm - The lawyer reminds the jury of evidence pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan gave where he didn't believe Millane had been attacked, due to a lack of deep-muscle hemorrhaging. The pathologist says this would be expected if a struggle happened.

Dr Garavan also said alcohol was likely a secondary player in the death by affecting the respiratory system.

Brookie says that any suggestion that death occurs after five to 10 minutes of pressure should be understood as an estimate. Three experts who spoke during the trial had differing views on how long pressure would need to be applied.

3:01pm - Another man who gave evidence on Wednesday said he found Millane "naive and trusting" on the dating application Whiplr. Brookie suggests that Millane may have had a long-interest in BDSM elements, but didn't have much experience compared to others in the Whiplr community.

The lawyer asks the jury to consider whether this is similar to the accused. The accused had previously participated in a form of rough sex, but only when others encouraged it.

Brookie characterises the accused as a "young man who is prepared to do what his sexual partners want him to do in the bedroom."

The lawyer says considering the inexperience of the couple, the pair being intoxicated, and them getting carried away, the accused's version of events could be seen to stack up.

2:55pm - Brookie says the court heard on Wednesday from Professor Clarissa Smith about how BDSM was becoming more common with young people. He says the theme of her evidence was that BDSM was not about pain or violence, but pleasure.

He also notes that the professor said not everyone participating in a form of BDSM fully understands its danger or the need to consider safety during it.

2:52pm - Discussing the accused's versions of events about what happened in the CityLife hotel, Brookie says Millane encouraged a form of rough sex which included him holding her neck.

The lawyer says: "They were in the heat of the moment". Their perception was impaired by alcohol, while room lights were off, Brookie tells the jury.

On the claim that Millane led the activity and brought up the subject of rough sex, Brookie says: "There is ample evidence to support the accused's account that that is exactly what she said to him."

He again mentions Millane's former partner's statement about the pair practising safe rough sex. Brookie also notes that Millane was a member of Whiplr and FetLife.

2:39pm - Brookie mentions the jury having to watch more than an hour of footage showing the pair at the Bluestone Room. He says this was important to show the pair's relationship and how they were interacting.

The lawyer tells the jury it was an "evolving relationship" and the couple were "getting on like a house on fire".

After drinking at the Bluestone Room, the intoxicated pair walk to the CityLife hotel with his hands around her waist.

"That is a very revealing picture as to how well things were going," Brookie says.

He tells the court this verifies the accused's claim that the pair had a connection.

Brookie mentions a text the court heard about from Millane to her friend. In it, Millane told her friend that the man said he was an oil company manager.

The lawyer says this was a "white lie" by an "insecure" man, and nothing more sinister.

2:32pm - Three groups of evidence will be discussed by Brookie. The date, what happened after the death, and other pieces of evidence, such as the evidence given by the accused's Tinder matches.

He begins by noting the seemingly happy mood of the couple on their date.

After leaving Andy's Burger Bar, he says: "They seem to be all smiles and having a great time."

At the Mexican Cafe, Brookie says similar affection can be seen, such as when Millane puts her arm around the accused.

The lawyer says progression in their intimacy can be seen when the pair walk to the Bluestone Room.

"You can see them holding hands. By that stage we have moved to another level of affection."

Throughout this account, Brookie notes the numerous alcoholic beverages consumed by the pair. He says it's clear they would have become intoxicated.

2:21pm - The defence lawyer says the core of the December 8 interview - where the accused went through his version of events - is verified by evidence. He exemplifies this by discussing the accused's claim that in the CityLife hotel Millane raised rough sex. The accused also said she said she had done this with a former partner.

Brookie says this claim has been verified by witness statements presented on Wednesday.

2:17pm - Brookie says the jury must question whether what happened after Millane's death is relevant to them deciding whether a murder happened.

He admits the accused "freaked out".

"He reacted badly. He acted selfishly. Reprehensible. Bad. Unacceptable."

Brookie tells the jury the accused didn't think anyone would believe him about what happened with Millane. Once the accused committed to a course, he had to "carry on with it" until he realised in the December 8 interview that he couldn't maintain a lie.

2:13pm - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie has begun his closing statement.

He tells the jury that each member is a judge that must approach the evidence in a "careful and conscientious and logical way". Brookie says emotion must be put aside to consider if the case for murder has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

"This is not a murder… it was an accidental death," Brookie says. The lawyer notes that Millane and the accused were intoxicated when they had sex and were inexperienced.

CCTV footage showing Millane in the CityLife hotel.
CCTV footage showing Millane in the CityLife hotel. Photo credit: Supplied

1:11pm - Wrapping up, Dickey summarises the evidence provided by key witnesses - including the Tinder matches and pathologists.

He finishes by saying considering each witness together, there is a "compelling case" for murder.

The court is now taking a break.

1:08pm - Dickey says the case isn't about consent. He says you can't consent to being murdered.

"She would have had to have consented to someone holding her throat for 10 minutes".

He tells the jury that her interests in BDSM were minor and included safe practises.

1:00pm - Dickey notes blood was found around the CityLife hotel apartment, with DNA matching that of Millane.

He says considering the position of her body, and the small size of the room, the accused would have likely had to step over her, or around her, when moving from the shower he claimed he passed out in, to the bed.

On the defence's case, Dickey questions the relevance of Professor Clarissa Smith's evidence. Prof Smith - an expert in sexual cultures - said BDSM was common in society, and is considered an umbrella term for many different practices.

He says there "aren’t mounting bodies in the streets" by people touching other people's necks during sex.

The prosecutor also questions the relevance of knowing Millane had an interest in BDSM or that she has previously been choked during sex by partners. He called it "prurient".

12:47pm - The prosecutor notes both pathologists who spoke to the court said death via manual strangulation during sex was highly uncommon.

Dickey says for that scenario to have happened, the accused would have to hold his sexual partner's neck for many minutes and with enough force to obstruct key veins or nerves.

The pathologists said eventually the woman's body would have gone lifeless below the accused and she would have also gone unconscious.

Neither pathologists have come across such cases in their decades of experience.

12:31pm - Moving on to the evidence relating to pathology and strangulation, Dickey says Dr Clare Healy - an expert in sexual assaults - told the court that it would take "quite some effort and some time to kill a person by [mechanical asphyxiation]".

The prosecutor also reiterates that pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan said sustained pressure to the neck must be maintained for many minutes - potentially up to 10 - for someone to die. Pressure must continue to be applied following the person going unconscious.

Dickey puts it to the jury that the person "doing that must have known that he was hurting her, causing her harm… it was reckless and he carried on anyway".

He says this is "powerful evidence" to suggest Millane was murdered.

12:09pm - The three Tinder matches of the accused who gave evidence during the trial are now mentioned by Dickey. He says one of the women didn't want to meet the man as she felt uncomfortable about him.

Another alleged the accused suffocated her with his genitals. This woman's evidence shows the accused as a person "seeking domination and power over a weaker partner", the prosecutor says.

Dickey tells the jury the witness' story was "too embarrassing to make up", as the woman put it.

That witness was questioned for hours by the defence on why she continued to message the man in the weeks after the encounter and never cut the conversation off. The woman told the court she did this to appease him and to make sure he didn’t turn up somewhere to find her because he was angry with her.

Dickey says the woman may be criticised for speaking to him after the alleged suffocation or leading him on. But, the prosecutor says, she was "managing him in a way that made her feel safe".

12:04pm - Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey has resumed his closing summary in front of a full public gallery.

He winds up his discussion of the December 8 police interview by saying that it doesn't provide any evidence to support a narrative that Millane died accidentally by choking during rough sex. Dickey says the accused never said that.

Grace Millane and the accused entering the CityLife hotel on the night she died.
Grace Millane and the accused entering the CityLife hotel on the night she died. Photo credit: Supplied

11:42am - Dickey says the accused's version of events of what happened in the CityLife hotel, given in a December 8 police interview, reveal something that can only be considered "BDSM-lite" - "a world away from strangulation". He characterises it as a "little bit of chokey".

After waking up in the morning to find Millane on the floor with blood coming from her nose, the accused told police he was shocked.

Dickey questions this, again asking where the evidence of panic was. He says the accused's treatment of Millane's body afterwards showed an "utter disregard for dignity", especially considering the couple appeared happy together during their date.

The prosecutor finishes the first part of his closing statement by saying if the accused had told the full truth during the interview, he would have been admitting to murder.

The court is now taking a short break.

11:19am - Turning now to the accused's December 6 police interview, the prosecutor says the accused had countless opportunities to tell the police Millane's death was an accident, but he didn't.

"He doesn't. He lies. He lies and lies and lies."

Dickey discusses what he calls the "elaborate" lies the accused "invented" about the night of December 1. This includes parting with Millane at 8pm, speaking to Chinese tourists, going to a bar for a Corona, singing with people and then blacking out.

"This interview can't be brushed aside," the prosecutor says. Dickey says even if the accused provides some truthful details in a later interview, he still lied to police.

"He is trying to get away with it. What he has done is kill the British tourist and that is murder in his own mind, as he knows what he did."

The accused during his interview with police on December 8.
The accused during his interview with police on December 8. Photo credit: Supplied

11:11am - Dickey says that after he is initially contacted by police on December 5, the accused dumped items in an Albert Park rubbish bin. The prosecutor then mentions a trip the accused took to Mission Bay early on December 6, CCTV footage of which was not recovered.

He suggests that it is possible during this trip, the accused disposed of Millane's cellphone, which was never found by police.

Throughout Dickey's detailing of the man's actions after the alleged murder, the prosecutor asks: "Where is the evidence of panic?".

11:03am - The accused's actions in the days afterwards - including texting another woman to confirm a date - show him to be "cool, calm and controlled", Dickey tells the jury. He says the man showed little panic or concern about what he had done.

One of the searches on the accused's phone on December 2 was for the time in London. Dickey wonders if he did this as he knew it was Millane's birthday and wanted to figure out what time her family would be getting in touch.

The prosecutor says the accused's claim that he wanted to take his own life is a "melodrama". He says there is no evidence of this and the accused was only trying to make himself out to be a "decent human being".

10:47am - The internet history of the accused's phone shows searches for the Waitakere Ranges, the hottest type of fire and pornography - in that order. The intimate photos were then taken of Millane's dead body, Dickey says.

The prosecutor mentions that in his police interview, the accused said he and Millane took photos of each other. He suggests that if these photos were the ones taken after the searches for the Waitakere Ranges - where Millane's body would later be found - he may have planned to murder her.

10:44am - The prosecutor has moved on to the accused's actions after the alleged murder. He notes that the defence has said this shouldn't be given undue weight.

But Dickey disagrees, saying: "It is common sense you would have to look at what he did next". 
By looking at what he did next, the jury can reason what happened.

One post-death point Dickey picks up on is the accused not ringing emergency services. He says that would have been the response of most people, but suggests the accused's lack of action shows he didn't care about saving Millane's life.

10:26am - He recalls a comment from the defence that the accused had no motive. Dickey questions this and shows the jury the intimate photos taken of Millane after her death.

"She was dead… He has eroticsed the death of British backpacker Grace Millane which occurred under his handhold."

10:23am - Dickey says one of the two pathologists who gave evidence said that it could take up to 10 minutes of manual strangulation to cause death. During that time, the victim would go unconscious.

After unconsciousness, "you would have to carry on to cause death," Dickey tells the jury.

The prosecutor says the accused had Millane under his grip, suffocating her, for between five and 10 minutes.

He tells the jury that this is reckless murder.

"This is not sex play… this is not restricted breath play".

10:21am - Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey has begun his closing statement. He begins by noting that the Crown does not have to prove the accused intended to kill Millane. He echoes comments from Justice Moore earlier this week that murder can be committed by someone with intent to kill or by someone causing death through reckless actions. He suggests the accused's actions were reckless.

10:13am - Justice Simon Moore has given consent to defence lawyer Ian Brookie to reopen the defence case and read an agreed fact to the jury.

Brookie reads out a clarification from pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan. In it, the pathologist says it is possible death could occur after up to 10 minutes of manual strangulation. This time period would be from consciousness to death.

9:30am - A large crowd is gathering for what is likely to be the last day the court sits for a full session during this trial. The Crown will be the first to present a closing summary - likely led by Brian Dickey - before the defence's Ian Brookie speaks to the jury.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz