Grace Millane's mother Gillian pays tribute to daughter, describing her as 'a joy'

Grace Millane's mother has paid tribute to her daughter, describing her as an amazing young girl and her best friend.  

It comes about a year after Gillian Millane gave her first television interview to Newshub, revealing she was planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in honour of her daughter and late husband David.  

"I climb mountains most of my days anyway mentally, so why not climb a real one? So that's what I decided to do," she told Newshub in December 2022.  

Speaking to The Extraordinary Ordinary podcast, Gillian said she used to do everything with her daughter, and she lit up a room.  

"She was amazing, she was like my best friend. We used to do so much together. She lit up a room, and went with a smile. She was family-orientated, loved her two brothers and her little niece. She was just a joy but she was also a teenager at times," she said.   

"From a very early age, she wanted to travel and New Zealand was one of the places she wrote about... like everyone's son and daughter, they bring joy," she said.  

The murder of Millane's daughter, Grace, sparked international headlines after the British tourist disappeared in December 2018 while in Auckland on her OE.  

Her body was found in the Waitākere Ranges a week after she was last seen at a central Auckland hotel. A 27-year-old man - who had been seen on CCTV footage entering an Auckland hotel with Millane - was found guilty in November 2019 and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.   

Gillian told the podcast her family has never mentioned Grace's killer's name.   

"We never mention his name. Why do I want to give him any airtime at all? I don't think about him, I don't care what happens to him," she said.   

"He came into our life, destroyed our family. I don't want to know his name. I don't care about him."   

Gillian underwent surgery for a breast cancer diagnosis just a week before her daughter was killed.   

"I don't really remember an awful lot about that, just my friends and family dragging me to the hospital making sure I was going because my husband, David, had to go to New Zealand and deal with that," she said.   

"But your mind is quite good at selecting and putting things somewhere else, so it's all a bit of a blur really that time."    

Just two years after her daughter's death, her family suffered another tragedy when Grace's father, David, died of cancer in 2020.   

"He was taken unwell while we were at the trial but we just put it down to stress and we thought he had an ulcer," Gillian said.  

"So that Christmas was another disastrous Christmas and New Year. He was taken to hospital over Christmas, he started chemotherapy but unfortunately, it was too late it had gone to his brain, and he died the November of that year [2020]."   

David was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  

"I was in such a dark, lonely place and I pushed everybody away... Trying to find your path on this road of grief is a very difficult thing to do," she said.  

"You get to a point when you realise that you're the only one that can get you out of there."   

She said her friends and family were "amazing" during that period and also thanked members for their support.  

"I can't put into words, and people I don't even know and even now, I bump into people and the support they give me and the letters, they just scoop me up because they were all hurting as much as we were."   

Grace Millane's mother Gillian pays tribute to daughter, describing her as 'a joy'
Photo credit: Supplied

The interview with The Extraordinary Ordinary podcast comes after she spoke to Newshub in December last year.   

Gillian said she chose to do the climb over the Christmas/New Year period because it's a difficult time for her.   

"To be fair, every day is not great, but obviously the holidays are worse. Everybody's out celebrating and bringing the New Year in but we muddle through...Yes, we bring a New Year in... But we've come to the realisation neither of them is coming back so it's a bit poignant that day."  

Honouring Grace and David's legacies

Gillian revealed she has two stones engraved with Grace and David's names which she planned to leave at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.   

"I'm going to put them up there so they're travelling with me... and they're part of it."   

The trek, which was to raise money for White Ribbon in Grace's honour and a local hospice in David's, is just one way Gillian carries on their legacies.   

Grace Millane's mother Gillian pays tribute to daughter, describing her as 'a joy'
Photo credit: Supplied

Supporting domestic violence survivors has become an important mission for Gillian since Grace's murder. She said she turned to advocacy in the hopes of sparing another parent from going through what she is.  

"With White Ribbon we've got to raise awareness, that's what we've got to do. We've got to try so some mum doesn't have to go through this or some father doesn't have to go through what I go through," she told Newshub.  

"Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have Grace back but I can't have that. So this is the next best thing."  

After Grace died, her family also started the charity, Love Grace, which helps support victims of domestic abuse. One of its most notable appeals was the handbag appeal - which Gillian said has just continued to grow.   

"I knew from the start when Grace was taken from us I had to do something to channel my grief somewhere. You can stay in that big black hole, but it's a very lonely, horrible place," she said.  

"So we decided on handbags, Grace loves handbags... So we decided we would do something with handbags. [We decided] we would fill them with essential stuff like shampoo and conditioner - which we all take for granted. And then donate them to a local refuge.   

"We initially thought we would do 50 to 150. Now I think we're like 12,000, something like that probably more than that worldwide now."