Grace Millane murder trial: As it happened - Tinder match returns to court, pathologist gives evidence

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

A pathologist and a former Tinder flame of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane are both giving evidence at his trial on Tuesday.

According to the Crown, the 27-year-old man murdered the British backpacker in a CityLife hotel room between the night of December 1 and the morning of December 2 last year. The Defence, however, says that the man didn't have murderous intent and the woman died accidentally after consensual rough sex went wrong.

On Monday, three women the man previously met via the dating application Tinder gave evidence at his trial in the Auckland High Court. One of the witnesses - who cannot be named - accused him of suffocating her after oral sex in November last year.

She will return to the witness box on Tuesday to give more details about her extensive communication with the man after the alleged incident. 

A pathologist who inspected Millane's body after it was discovered in a suitcase buried in the Waitakere Ranges will also likely give evidence. The Crown said it in its opening statement the young British woman was found to have a bruise on her neck. It says her cause of death was sustained pressure to the neck that restricted breath.

More coverage of the trial can be found here.

Live updates are now over.  

5:07pm -  In the video, the accused says the evening of December 1 - the night of their Tinder date - went well and that they drank several cocktails at Andy’s Burger Bar.

He says after the pair left SkyCity, they parted ways on Victoria St and walked onto opposite sides of Queen St.

He then went onto drink at a pub in the central city and had arranged to meet a friend.

Tuesday’s proceedings have now ended. The interview will continue to be played on Wednesday.

4:55pm - In the video the accused is describing his conversation with Millane.

He tells Det Settle she told him she was from Essex and was travelling around New Zealand. 

The accused said she was considering staying in New Zealand until June and was looking at bar-tending jobs.

He tells the detective he suggested meeting on December 1 at SkyCity in case the woman was a "catfish".

A catfish is someone who uses another identity on a dating application to trick a potential match.

By meeting at the crowded SkyCity, the man says he felt "safe" if she wasn’t real.

He says there was security at the complex and their meeting would be surrounded by other people.

4:37pm - Detective Ewen Settle is now giving evidence. He will likely be the last witness of the day and was the police officer responsible for interviewing the accused on December 6 at the Auckland Central police station.

This interview was captured on video, which the jury is now viewing.

In the video, the accused says he had recently moved back to New Zealand after being in Australia for several years.

He said he had also recently taken anxiety medication. The accused took this after his parents broke up.

He also confirmed he had undertaken counselling.

4:32pm - Det Jordan says she was also a family liaison officer and travelled to the United Kingdom earlier this year.

While there she obtained a statement from a friend of Millane’s and took a clone of the British backpacker’s laptop and iPad.

The witness says she was also tasked with speaking with the woman who earlier in the trial alleged the accused suffocated her in November.

She did this at the woman’s workplace on March 27, when she took notes which were later turned into a formal statement.

4:21pm - Detective Toni Jordan is speaking about an inquiry she and another officer made at the CityLife Hotel on December 6 at about 2:20pm.

While there, reception staff told the pair the accused had just been in the foyer.

Det Jordan says she then saw the accused on Durham St West. She and the other officer followed him to a store at the intersection of Durham St West and Queen St.

Det Jordan tells the court her partner asked the man to accompany them to the police station. He replied that he wanted to get the matter sorted and Det Jordan says he cooperated.

The witness says the accused went with them to the police station. She later went back to CityLife Hotel, as well as the Warehouse and the nearby Countdown.

4:04pm - Constable Thomas Heimuli - the police officer who spoke to the accused at the Crowne Plaza alongside the previous witness - is now in the witness box.

He confirms he spoke to the accused on December 6. After the meeting, Heimuli says he took photos of the accused - which the accused consented to - before telling him he would need to give a statement at the police station.

The accused said he would be free to do so after work at 4pm.

Heimuli and Chan then went to SkyCity to check the CCTV footage to corroborate the accused’s account that he and Millane went to Andy’s Burger Bar.

3:33pm - Detective Constable Changhee Han is now giving evidence. He was tasked with speaking to the accused, which he did with another police officer at Auckland Central's Crowne Plaza on December 6.

During that conversation, Han says the man said after having six to seven cocktails at Andy's Burger Bar on the night of December 1, they parted ways while walking down to Queen St. The accused said there was no further contact with the women that night and claims she unmatched with him on Tinder.

The court is now taking a short break.

3:19pm - Detective Constable Diana Levinzon - who was part of the Grace Millane missing persons inquiry - is now in the witness box.

She tells the jury that after inquiries on Millane's social media, she came across the accused and messaged him her number, saying she was looking into Millane.

The man eventually rang her and told her of his date with Millane after meeting on Tinder.

3:08pm - Dickey asks Dr Stables if someone's arms were pinned down, would they be able to inflict defensive injuries. Dr Stables says he wouldn't expect so.

Examination of Dr Stables has now finished.

CCTV footage showed the pair arriving at the CityLife hotel.
CCTV footage showed the pair arriving at the CityLife hotel. Photo credit: Supplied

3:04pm - One point Brookie asked the pathologist about was whether a high level of intoxication could contribute to respiratory systems being affected. He said if this happened, the person would be unconscious.

During re-examination, Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey asks if respiratory systems were being affected, would a person be able to walk or get into an elevator? Dr Stables says no, because the individual would be unconscious.

3:00pm - Dr Stables' final point under cross-examination is that a death from manual strangulation during consensual sex is "incredibly rare". He has never seen it and says there is a lack of literature around it.

He says one study found that seven cases were recorded in Poland over a 10-year period.

2:48pm - The defence lawyer and pathologist are now discussing the toxicology results. Dr Stables reiterates evidence from forensic scientist Diana Kappatos that the blood-alcohol level at the time of death can be difficult to determine when body decomposition has happened.

Brookie puts it to Dr Stables that Millane and the accused had multiple drinks on the night of December 1. He asks if he believes someone, after that many drinks, would have a blood-alcohol level higher than 106mg. The pathologist says it's likely. He can't say if the person would be intoxicated without knowing their tolerance levels.

2:35pm - Brookie is asking the man if a situation like erotic strangulation could be considered a dynamic interaction, with a lot of movement and different levels of force being placed onto the neck. He says it's possible.

2:30pm - The court has now resumed for the afternoon. Dr Simon Stables remains in the witness box, with a large group of people in the public gallery.

1:10pm - The pathologist says if blood had come from the nose due to pressure, it would have been more like a dripping tap than a torrent of blood.

The court is now adjourned for a lunch break.

1:06pm - Brookie asks whether one could expect to see scratches or abrasions on the victim's neck where they may have tried to get someone's hands off their neck. Dr Stables agrees it's possible, but none were found on the left part of the neck. The right side of the neck wasn't able to be examined due to decomposition.

The pathologist tells the court Millane was found with intact fingernails of some length.

12:57pm - Brookie is going over several of the bruises on Millane's body. He suggests the appearance of some may have been affected by the post-mortem process. In regard to one bruise, Dr Stables says it is possible.

He also tells the court that some of the bruises may have resulted from physical consensual sex, including the ones he said were the possible result of grabbing or holding.

The defence lawyer puts to the pathologist a situation where a victim has been aggressively attacked or strangled. He asks whether Dr Stables would expect to see the victim resist in a physical way with signs of defensive injuries. The pathologist agrees, but caveats that with a note that he hasn't dealt with many manual strangulation cases to draw experience from.

12:50pm - Dr Stables is now giving evidence under cross-examination by defence lawyer Ian Brookie. 

He confirms the body was found intact and there were no apparent wounds or injuries that would result in the blood found in the CityLife room.

He also says blood can leak from the nose after death.

Brookie suggests some people bruise easier than others. Dr Stables agrees, but says it is unlikely Millane bruised easier than other people as she was young and there were no known medical conditions that may contribute to this.

He isn't able to give the exact date of the bruising, but again reiterates it would have been around December 1. 

He also admits the bruise may have been caused the day before.

CCTV footage showed the moment the two first met.
CCTV footage showed the moment the two first met. Photo credit: Supplied

12:43pm - CCTV footage shown to the jury last week showed Millane and the accused having multiple drinks during their Tinder date.

Dr Stables says alcohol can sensitise the heart and therefore, could contribute to death. But he doesn't believe it did in this case.

He says if you took the alcohol consumption out of this situation, his prescribed cause of death would be the same.

12:40pm - Dr Stables says death through manual strangulation is very rare.

He has heard of cases of autoerotic asphyxiation where an individual strangled themselves for sexual gratification, but he has never come across someone in New Zealand dying by manual strangulation during sex with someone else.

Even in medical literature, it is rarely written about as it is a "small sub-group".

12:25pm - The pathologist says bleeding from the nose after pressure is applied to the neck can happen, but it's very rare. The decomposition of Millane's face also made this difficult to come to a conclusion about.

Dr Stables says the cause of death was pressure to the neck. This could be from manual strangulation (hand on neck causing pressure), a rope or belt or other object on the neck, a chokehold (neck in someone's inner elbow area), or a forearm hold (pushing forearm into neck).

He can't exclude any of those four mechanisms being responsible for the death.

12:17pm - One significant bruise Dr Stables is pointing out is on Millane's neck, which became clearer during an internal examination. He says the bruise - which he believes happened before death - was 6cm x 3cm and went from the jaw down to roughly the mid-neck.

He says this was due to pressure on the neck. It wouldn't have been a "gentle pressure". The significance of this becomes clearer, he says, when considering there was no other major internal bruising. He also says this was significant to the cause of death.

During Dr Stables' evidence, Millane's mother, Gillian, wiped her eyes and looked away.

12:10pm - The pathologist confirms there were no cuts or abrasions seen on the body at the time of examination. However, he says these can be difficult to detect due to decomposition. He wouldn't have been able to pick up a split lip or blood nose, for example.

12:08pm - Dr Stables says most bruises appear to have been caused at the same time and it's his opinion that would have been around the time of death on December 1.

While bruises are difficult to date, he came to this conclusion as most were of the same colour. Two bruises were a greenish colour, which he says signals they are older.

He explains bruises are typically the result of blunt-force trauma. When an impact damages the blood vessels, they begin to leak and infiltrate the tissue. As that happens, a bruise occurs and it goes through colour change over time.

12:03pm - Court has resumed and numerous other bruises have been described by the pathologist.

So far, the pathologist has mentioned more than 10 bruises on Millane's body.

He says bruises on the inside upper arm are "concerning" as they may be the result of someone being restrained. Others potentially reflect someone being grabbed.

11:39am - Dr Simon Stables, the pathologist who inspected Millane's body, is now giving evidence.

He tells the court there was a bruise on the front of her shoulder roughly 10cm x 8cm. Other bruises were also found on her body. These included on the back of her shoulder, her inner upper arm, and the side of her body.

Dr Stables says he is confident these bruises happened before death.

He is confident the bruises were there before death or "pre-mortem" because bruises after death would require extreme force to create.

The court is now taking a short break, with more details expected to be presented afterwards.

11:17am - The woman confirms police contacted her and she didn't want to be part of the investigation or further proceedings as she didn't want to have to tell her story to people.

The woman has now finished giving evidence.

11:14am - Cross-examination has now finished and the woman is being re-examined by Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey.

Dickey asks her to read from her police statement about what happened after the alleged suffocating. In the statement, she said she felt she was in harm's way and he was blaming her.

The woman also tells the jury that the accused told her he was the cousin of an All Black and watched rugby matches alongside All Blacks players' families. The witness says he claimed to have just made a $500,000 deal.

11:04am - The woman confirms she didn't tell anyone about her allegations against the accused until she spoke with police. She says she was "ashamed".

The defence says she wanted to show the man in a bad light to police in order to portray herself as a victim. She says that is unfair.

10:58am - The woman tells the court that the man tried to make her have sympathy for him after the alleged suffocation by saying he had cancer.

She described him as a "sociopath".

"It was one of the worst days of my life."

10:52am - The defence lawyer is discussing the position the woman and man were in when she says she was suffocated. Mansfield suggests that he wouldn't have been able to see her face, something she agrees with.

However, she also tells the jury the man would have seen her struggling and kicking when her airways were being blocked, as he was looking down her body.

"He would have seen me kicking… he was looking forward to my feet, he would have seen my struggling," she says.

Mansfield puts it to the woman that she was lying when she said on Monday that he held onto her arms during this interaction. She says that is incorrect.

10:32am - Mansfield is suggesting to the woman that the couple went to the CityLife hotel on November 2 with the intention to hook-up, with sexual activity expected. She disagrees, saying that she was on her period.

The woman also confirmed to the court that the man never insisted the couple had sex, was not aggressive at this point, and didn't restrain her in anyway. Mansfield says the man simply inquired about it.

10:23am - The cross-examination is focusing around the woman's actions immediately after allegedly being suffocated by the accused.

On Monday, the woman told the court after the man got off her, she took several large breaths. He asked what was wrong, and she said "What do you mean? I couldn't breathe". She said the man then said "Oh you don't think I did it on purpose, did you?" with a cold tone.

But defence lawyer Mansfield says in a police statement the woman gave, she said the accused began crying when she mentioned she couldn't breathe. After he asked if she thought he did it on purpose, Mansfield says she said: "Of course, I didn't think you meant to do that. You're not a horrible person."

But the woman tells the court she didn't believe that and she was scared of him.

10:10am - Proceedings at the Auckland High Court have begun. Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield is cross-examining the female witness who alleged the accused suffocated her in November last year.

Despite the heavy rain in Auckland, a large group of the public have still arrived for the hearing, including Millane's parents.

9:30am - At 10am, one of the women who gave evidence on Monday will return to the witness box. 

Throughout Monday afternoon, she was questioned by the defence over her extensive communication with the man after he allegedly suffocated her.

Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield asked why she continued to message the man if she was scared of him and wanted him out of her life as she claimed.

When told she would have to return to court on Tuesday, she broke down.

Newshub.

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