A 27-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane whose body was found buried in a suitcase in New Zealand, local media reported.
The young woman from Wickford, Essex, was strangled by a man she had met on dating site Tinder and with whom she spent several hours drinking in the centre of Auckland on December 1, 2018.
The pair returned to his apartment and Ms Millane was killed either that night or in the early hours of the next morning – the date of her 22nd birthday.
The jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict after just five hours deliberation at Auckland High Court.
The Crown successfully argued the man, whose name is subject to a suppression order, strangled her and shoved her body inside a suitcase before burying her in a forested area outside Auckland.
She was assumed missing and her father, David Millane, flew to New Zealand as local authorities spent a week searching until her body was found by police.
The defence had claimed the death was accidental and occurred during rough sexual intercourse.
Justice Simon Moore told jury members before they delivered their verdict that they had to be certain the man had murderous intent when he put his hands on Ms Millane’s neck during sexual intercourse to convict him of murder, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Mr Moore asked: “Are you sure that when he applied pressure to Ms Millane’s neck… Did he intend to cause injury?”
He further asked them to consider if the accused was willing to take the chance of Ms Millane dying due to his actions.
“If yes, then (the defendant) is guilty of murder,” the judge said.
“In other words, (he) must have appreciated Ms Millane’s death was a likely consequence… but was willing to run that risk.”
The court had been told Ms Millane had an interest in BDSM, with a previous sexual partner testifying they had used safe words and physical tapping to indicate when physical pressure became overwhelming.
During the trial the jurors heard from forensic experts who examined the accused’s apartment for blood stains as well as Ms Millane’s body after her death.
They were also shown footage of the woman and the defendant drinking at various bars throughout Auckland and kissing before they returned to his apartment.
Video footage from the elevator of her exiting on the third floor marked the last recorded time Ms Millane was seen alive.
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