OPINION: I went on a date with Grace Millane’s killer while her body lay in his apartment.
Yes, in the bizarre sequence of events after she was murdered, I somehow ended up opposite this man at Revelry Bar in Ponsonby, drinking a beer on a Sunday afternoon as if nothing had ever happened.
I was unnerved during the date, so much so I lied about where my car was parked. I also wish I could have done more to help Grace.
My instincts told me something was not right with this man and, while it took me a long time to write this, I want to share my experience so other women can remove themselves from situations they feel unsafe in.
Going on a date with a killer is much like any other date. Let’s remember too that 18 hours earlier he was a man who loved to swipe right a little too much. And yet I’m guessing I’m the first person since the event who he’d probably had a proper conversation with.
I could tell right away he was aloof. He wasn’t there to make a connection or find out more about me. It also struck me how clean he was, his huge eyes and how intense he became when talking about poisonous snakes.
The conversation started like all average Tinder dates - the activities of that previous morning. He’d been shopping for a suitcase with wheels or a bag with wheels. He was frustrated that he couldn’t find one big enough to fit all his sports equipment. Fair enough.
He looked like a solid guy who played sport well. It makes me quite sick now to think of what that suitcase was actually used for.
He drank his first beer very fast. Something I really hate in dates. To me it either shows they drink a fair bit or need it for their nerves. Maybe I’m harsh with that but it was the first thing that unnerved me.
Knowing he was from Aussie I asked who his friends were here and he said they were all policemen. He said they met in bars and he was invited back to their houses for BBQ’s. I thought that was so weird - why would policemen in bars want to invite a guy they’ve met back to their homes?
It felt like a lie and it was easy to tell. But why lie about that I thought.
He then told me a random fact - that his police friends were having a tough time at the moment as lots of bodies were being buried in the Waitakeres and, as police dogs can’t smell deeper than four feet, it’s hard to find them.
In all honesty, this was an interesting fact for me. Keep in mind that before this date I watched a tonne of Scandinavian crime series so it was in the realm of something my brain thought was of interest.
We were 20 minutes in and I knew this wasn’t ever going to be a match but I always like to give people an hour. I wish I hadn’t now. But again, we’re Kiwi’s and much like the British, we’d rather be uncomfortable than rude.
It’s hard to say how we go onto the next topic but he then mentioned his best mate was also a Crown prosecutor who was moving to Auckland from Sydney shortly and taking a big pay cut in the process. Again, it seemed odd that a man who would be in his late 20s was going to be a Crown prosecutor.
To try and insert myself in the conversation somehow, so it didn’t become a monologue from him, I mentioned that I had sat through court trials when I was a journalist - one in particular where I saw a young man of 20 be put away for murder. To watch him, his family and the victim’s family was something I’ll never forget.
When he heard this he said, "it’s funny how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their lives."
"I heard of this guy who’s partner asked to have rough sex with him involving some sort of strangulation and suffocation but it went wrong and the guy couldn’t revive her and she died. He got done for manslaughter but it was really tough for him to see this woman he loved dying."
At this point he could see I was uncomfortable. I wasn’t scared, just intrigued as to why someone would tell a story like that or knew a story like that. I was actually trying to process that story and how the man would have felt to have killed someone he really loved through sex.
In hindsight, it was as if he was using this date to process what he’d done in a rather roundabout way - his brain needed to get it out but his mouth held him back. Was he testing theories on me to see which version seemed most believable?
Let’s also keep in mind here that this man texted me at 8am that day, 10am and 12pm. It wasn't as if this date was 'inconvenient' for him - much to the contrary.
The other topic he became very energised in was around poisonous snakes in Australia - he told me how brown snakes killed one man in his house and nearly another guy on a farm. It was as if he was quite taken by morbidity, by death and by violence.
It was at that point where I felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave. He was on his second drink and I got water for us.
I was worried he may take off with my bag as I did leave it on the table as I got the water. I was also very careful never to leave my drink with him.
For some reason, I felt like he was the type of guy who would spike it. I felt bad for thinking that though.
After around an hour and half we got up to leave. He said his car was down a specific street and mine was in the same spot.
However, by that stage, I felt unsafe with him and so I lied and said my car was another direction and walked away.
Many people ask me if I feel like I’ve had a near-death experience. Not at all. I feel like I had an utterly bizarre period of time with someone very odd.
I keep thinking back to that day and all I can really think was I wish I had known something and been able to do something for Grace.
How on earth could this man be having a drink with me while her body was back in his apartment?
I will never ever be able to come to terms with that.
There was nothing I could do, but I’m angry there wasn’t. I almost wish that during the date he’d let slip what he’d done and then I have this vision of the police going into her apartment and reviving Grace - I know that wasn’t possible given she’d died many hours before.
I’m left with a sense of hopelessness that there was nothing I could do to help Grace.
I have very strong instincts about people and I trust them. I think they may have helped me that day. I do not think I was in danger, however, I wasn’t going to do anything that would put me at risk.
Lies are easy to spot too. If it doesn’t add up or seems to be too good to be true, it likely is.
All I really want to do now, is tell everyone that they never have to put themselves in situations they feel uncomfortable or unsafe in.
Feels like I’m not helping at all just by saying that, but if one of you reads this and takes it to heart then my work is done.
The author's name is suppressed.