Grace Millane's murderer's appeal against conviction, sentence dismissed by Court of Appeal

The man who killed Grace Millane has lost his bid to have his conviction and sentence overturned.

His name continues to be suppressed after a Supreme Court judgement on Friday.

At an August hearing, the man's lawyer Rachael Reed QC laid out several concerns with the November trial, including about how the jury was able to deal with the question of consent when considering their verdict, if jurors were given "balanced" direction about expert evidence and how to weigh this up, and how evidence from other women about the man was handled.

Reed also questioned the trial judge's finding that Millane was "particularly vulnerable" and that the killing had a high degree of callousness, two factors that became important in his sentencing.

However, the appeals have been dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

In regard to the sentence appeal, the court said Millane "was particularly vulnerable, being intoxicated, in a strange apartment, naked, in the arms of a comparative stranger with whom she thought she had "clicked"(and could therefore trust), and with his hands about her throat.

"The Judge was correct in finding the murder of Millane was committed with a high degree of callousness.

"We refer in the judgment to the appellant’s attitude to the likely struggles of Ms Millane (and certain lapsing into unconsciousness), his disregard for her condition when he went then to take a shower, his failure to call for assistance when appreciating her condition, and then searching on the internet for methods of body disposal, looking at pornography online, taking intimate photographic images of Millane’s naked body, looking again at pornography online, taking steps preparatory to disposing of the body, and going on another date while Ms Millane’s body remained in his room."

Statement from the Millane family

Following the Court of Appeal decision, the Millane family released a statement saying they were pleased with the outcome.

"[We] would like to take this opportunity once again to thank: Justice Stephen Kos, Justice Patricia Courtney and Justice Mark Cooper; The Crown prosecution team Brian Dickey and Robin McCoubrey; Auckland City District Police, especially Detective inspector Scott Beard, Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Brand, Detective Sergeant Tony McKenzie and Detective Toni Jordan for their hard work, dedication and unflinching support. 

"We would also like to thank the people of New Zealand for the love and support they have shown to Grace and our family over the last two years."

They described Grace as a "kind, fun-loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, aunty, cousin and friend with her whole life ahead of her".

"She was enjoying the first of what would have been a lifetime of adventures before her life was so cruelly and brutally cut short by her murderer.

"Her sense of fun, her sense of adventure, her love of travel and exploring, along with her ability to light up any room she walked into it with her generosity of spirit, are memories we as a family cherish and how we will forever remember her.

"Although the focus will inevitably be on the outcome of today’s legal process, as a family our hearts and our love will always be with our beautiful Grace.

"Grace, you are, and will always be, our sunshine."

The 28-year-old man was found guilty of murdering Millane at the Auckland High Court in November last year. In February, Justice Simon Moore sentenced him to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Millane, a 21-year-old backpacker from Essex, England travelling New Zealand, was strangled to death in an Auckland CityLife apartment room in December 2018 following a four-hour-long Tinder date. Her body was found days later buried in a suitcase in the Waitakere Ranges. 

The man rejected the murder charge and argued at the trial that the British woman's death was an accident during a form of rough sex. However, the jury of seven women and five men found otherwise. 

Millane's disappearance, the subsequent homicide investigation, and the trial received international media attention. Following her death, vigils were held across the country in the backpacker's honour, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a personal apology to Millane's family for what had happened to the young woman.

Throughout the three-week trial, Millane's parents watched on from the court gallery, which was also packed with onlookers.

"The verdict of murder will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family," Grace's father, David, said following the guilty verdict. "It will not reduce the pain and the suffering we have had to endure over the past year."