Grace Millane murder: Live updates as convicted killer sentenced

The man convicted of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years in the Auckland High Court on Friday.

In November last year, a jury of seven women and five men came to the unanimous decision that the then 27-year-old man - who continues to have his name suppressed - murdered Millane in the Auckland CityLife hotel on December 1 or 2, 2018 after a roughly four-hour Tinder date.

While the man insisted throughout the three-week trial that Millane's death was an accident during a form of rough sex that including placing his hands on her neck, prosecutors said he had murderous intent. 

Millane was first reported missing on December 5, three days after she failed to contact her family on her birthday. On December 8, the now-convicted killer was arrested. A day later, Millane's body was found buried in a suitcase in the Waitakere Ranges.

On Friday, Justice Simon Moore, who presided over the Auckland High Court trial, provided a summary of the case and his justification of the sentence he has chosen. Several victim impact statements - including from Millane's mother Gillian - have been read out for the court. 

The sentence for murder is life imprisonment - unless that is manifestly unjust - with a non-parole period of at least 10 years. The judge has decided on a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

These live updates have now finished.

More coverage of the trial can be found here.

11:30am - White Ribbon manager Rob McCann has spoken out about the sentencing, saying: "One person has been locked away but are New Zealand women any safer? We certainly feel better about ourselves, but in locking away one person we have not addressed the fact that one in three women experience violence from a partner or ex-partner in their lifetime.

"We have not addressed the unhealthy attitudes towards women that are nurtured by pornography, or the clichéd masculinity that is created when we tell our young men that 'boys don't cry' or to 'harden up'.

"We have not addressed the victim blaming which the defence tried to utilise and that those same myths were repeated by sections of our communities."

White Ribbon Ambassador Mark Longley says it is up to men to spread the message that violence against women is wrong in any form.

"As men our voice can be incredibly powerful, whether that is just checking in on a mate and asking if he is ok, or uniting to speak out against violence towards women."

11:23am - Police Detective Inspector Scott Beard is speaking to media following the sentencing of Grace Millane's killer. 

Beard was at the forefront of the police investigation into the British backpacker's death in December 2018. Throughout the three-week trial of her now-convicted killer, Beard sat with Millane's family in the court's gallery.

He maintains regular contact with the family and attended the young woman's funeral at the start of the 2019.

Friday is Beard's first opportunity to properly speak out about the murder following the trial.

Watch Beard's stand-up here.

11:18am - The Crown is pleased with the result but ultimately no one is happy with the situation, prosecutor Brian Dickey says outside court.

The killer's father and step-mother have left court but refused to speak to media. The defence lawyers have also left.

10:49am - The killer has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

10:43am - The judge agrees with the Crown that manual strangulation is an intimate type of violence. He says he needs to consider the context around the strangulation. Justice Moore says this isn't a case where strangulation was driven by rage, nor was there a motive of covering up another crime. The killing wasn't premeditated like other cases.

However, while the mechanics of the death may not suggest brutality, the judge says the killer was in a position of total dominance over a vulnerable person. Discussing the killer's post-death conduct, the judge says Millane must have died before 1:29am on December 2 due to the Google searches for the Waitakere Ranges.

After searching pornography, the killer took photos which the judge calls "highly sexualised". He says this intrusion of the victim's body is relevant.

Further pornography searches does not suggest an outpouring of remorse or panic. Instead he says the man has a total lack of empathy.

Justice Moore says his starting point for a non-parole period is 17 years. He then says he considered the killer's upbringing, but doesn't believe it outweighs the gravity of the killing.

10:39am - The judge is now discussing what the law requires, including that a life imprisonment sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years must be imposed.

He notes the proposals put forward by the prosecutors and defence and discussed evidence about how Grace's death actually occured. 

Justice Moore says callousness does not require prolonged activity, but can be signalled by a lack of empathy or sensitivity.

10:34am - After going over other facts of the case, Justice Moore discusses the victim impact statements. Twenty-six were received by the court. Many of these were by members of Grace's family.

"It is impossible not to be moved."

The judge says it is clear that traumatic events during the killer's upbringing impacted his adulthood and a suitable treatment programme would be put into place in prison.

10:30am - The killer's account of what happened, which he shared in his second police investigation, was largely what was relied upon as his defence in court.

Justice Moore says the man said Grace initiated rough sex or BDSM, but the judge believes that while they likely discussed it, the man's claim he was inexperienced with BDSM runs counter to evidence of his activities with other women.

The judge believes photographs of Millane were taken after her death, not prior.

Justice Moore says the killer didn't show any signs of panic in the CCTV footage of his post-death conduct.

10:24am - The judge begins with the description of facts. He discusses Millane arriving in New Zealand as a bright 21-year-old from Essex. She had a degree in advertising and marketing and was travelling the world.

She met the killer on Tinder and went on a date with him in Auckland Central. Considering the restaurant receipts for drinks, Justice Moore says the pair must have been drunk during the date, but not so drunk that they couldn't walk.

After visiting several bars, the pair went to the Auckland CityLife hotel. What happened inside isn't entirely clear.

10:22am - Justice Moore has now begun his discussion.

He says there will be four parts of his sentencing remarks: A description of facts, a discussion of victim impact statements and letters written in support of the killer, the man's personal circumstances and then finally, what the law requires.

He says the non-parole period is what is being determined.

10:16am - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie says the Crown is relying too much on the post-death conduct in justifying its preferred starting point for a sentence. He says the burial of a victim is "not that uncommon in this country". There is "no evidence from the scene or pathology that would support a finding of brutal or callous death itself".

He says the defence believe the pornography wasn't viewed after death and doesn't believe there was premeditation. 

The lawyer goes on to look at the murder in comparison to other cases and the sentences imposed.

"When compared with other murders [it is not] a callous or brutal case."

The defence lawyer is discussing mitigating factors, including the killer's "traumatic" upbringing. The lawyer says the killer is largely estranged from his family and is disconnected from Te Ao Māori. 

Brookie says that rehabilitation and reintegration for the killer is a "real prospect" but the killer acknowledges he has issues to deal with.

9:59am - Brookie says the prosecution is "overpitching" by saying the minimum number of years that should be given to the killer is 17 years in prison. The lawyer suggests 10 years plus a two-year uplift for the killer's "post-death conduct".

He says there was not a higher degree of "callousness, brutality or depravity" involved in this case than most other murders. He says there was no sustained attack.

9:51am - Defence lawyer Ian Brookie says the killer "maintains his innocence".

He says the court should ensure rehabilitation occurs, which he hopes happens here.

9:48am - Dickey is now going through the various points he hopes are considered during sentencing, including his view that the killing was a "close-quarters, personal and callous thing to do another person".

He says the searching of pornography and the Waitakere Ranges after the murder should be considered, as should the photos taken of Grace's body.

He mentions that the killer went on a date in the hours after Millane's murder and tried to cover up his tracks, including lying to police.

He says this isn't a case of "rough sex that went wrong" but a "violent death".

9:39am - Prosecutor Brian Dickey is now speaking to Justice Moore. He says there are other statements not heard in court, including from Grace's father David, upon which the impact of the death had been "immense".

9:35am - Gillian, tearing up, describes the killer's actions as "barbaric". She says no sentence will ever match the life sentence that Grace's death has imposed on the family.

"You have ripped a hole in my heart, one that will never be repaired."

She says he did this in pursuit of his own sexual satisfaction.

She has now finished speaking.

9:32am - Gillian says before Grace's death the mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and during it, Grace had been her "rock". But her death caused Gillian to go into a "state of shock and numbness". She says the pain was "agonising" and throughout Grace's disappearance, she had a feeling she was dead.

"You took it upon yourself to murder my beautiful Grace, an innocent young lady." 

Gillian says Grace died terrified and alone with the killer.

Gillian went through a difficult period last year where she thought about taking her own life, she says, but she knew the pain that would inflict on her family. She struggled to get out of bed every morning.

9:28am - Grace's mother, Gillian, is now giving her statement. 

She says Grace was her "very best friend", saying they laughed together and made memories she will always cherish. 

"You’ve taken my daughter's future and robbed me of many more memories we were going to create."

She describes her family as "broken".

Throughout this, the killer has his face in his hands and wipes his eyes.

9:22am - Grace's brother Declan is now speaking. He describes Grace as a "beautiful soul" who "set the world alight". 

"She had an extremely bright future ahead of her".

He says Grace's death ripped the family apart. He found it difficult knowing he could not do anything to help her. He felt he had a "duty to protect my little sister".

After Grace's death, he went through stages of "severe depression". He couldn't sleep or leave his flat.

Not only did the killer take away Grace's life, but "he took away a piece of my life as well".

"He took so much away from us that we will never get back."

Declan Millane breaks down, saying the "pain will never go away".

"Grace brought shining light."

9:18am - Victoria says she takes her two-year-old daughter Harper to "visit Aunty Grace" every so often, but dreads having to explain to the child what happened to Grace.

"You have taken her Aunty Grace, someone who can never be replaced."

What the killer did "can never be forgiven and our family has been destroyed. You will never understand the pain".

Victoria says Friday is the first time she has properly opened up about the impact that Grace's death has had on her.

9:15am - Addressing the killer, Victoria says he "unjustly" took Grace away from her family. She describes feeling numb and only sleeping a few hours each night Grace was missing. She hoped to wake up and hear Grace had been found.

"I felt so empty as though I had no emotion left in me," Victoria says, describing how she felt after she heard Grace had died.

Throughout Victoria's statement, the killer is staring blankly.

9:10am - Court is now in session. Justice Simon Moore has arrived and the killer is in the dock.
There will be three victim impact statements read by the Millane family. The first is Victoria Millane, Grace's sister-in-law.

She says she and Grace became the best of friends very quickly. Their connection became closer when she married into the Millane family. Grace became the "little sister" she had always wanted, Victoria says.

8:53am - The court's public gallery is full with members of the public, alongside the killer's family. There is a large number of police officers also present.

8:40am - There is a large public gathering outside courtroom 11 in the Auckland High Court. Currently the media - including outlets from the United Kingdom and Australia - are inside the courtroom alongside prosecutors, defence lawyers and court staff.

Among those gathering outside the courtroom is the killer's father and stepmother.

8:20am - One of Justice Simon Moore's biggest decisions will be the length of the non-parole period. With murder, it has to be at least 10 years. The judge has to ensure the sentence satisfies: 

  • Holding the offender accountable for the harm done to the victim and the community by the offending
  • Denouncing the conduct in which the offender was involved
  • Deterring the offender or other persons from committing the same or a similar offence
  • Protecting the community from the offender.

8am: Grace Millane's killer will be sentenced in court on Friday. Court proceedings will begin at 9am, with the judge expected to justify the sentence given and victim impact statements to be read out.

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