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New Zealand jury retires to consider verdict in Grace Millane trial

UK News | Published:

The young backpacker from Essex was allegedly strangled following a date.

Grace Millane death

The jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand retired on Friday to consider its verdict.

The young woman from Wickford, Essex, died after going back to the apartment of a 27-year-old man she met on the dating app Tinder in Auckland.

The Crown has alleged the defendant, 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.

But the defence claims the death, on either December 1 or December 2, 2018 – the date of Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday – was accidental and occurred during rough sexual intercourse.

Justice Simon Moore told jury members on Friday that to convict the accused of murder they had to be certain he had murderous intent, as defined by the Crimes Act, when he put his hands on Ms Millane’s neck, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Mr Moore asked: “Are you sure that when he applied pressure to Miss Millane’s neck… Did he intend to cause injury?”

Grace Millane death
Grace Millane, centre, drank at numerous venues during her date with the accused including Mexican Cafe (Auckland City Police/PA)

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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 Miss Millane’s death was a likely consequence… but was willing to run that risk.”

But, Justice Moore added, if the jury members did not consider a murder had been committed, they must consider the prospect of manslaughter.

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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.

The judge said if the jurors believed Ms Millane did not consent to the accused’s application of force to her neck, then they must find him guilty of manslaughter.

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.

Grace Millane death
Experts testified to the presence of stains which the chemical luminol indicated were blood in the accused’s apartment (Auckland City Police/PA)

Alcohol has been considered as a factor in the case, with Justice Moore on Friday noting that the pair did not consume any food during their date but adding that intoxication was not a defence to murder.

A toxicologist called by the Crown had earlier told the court it was impossible to accurately determine the level of alcohol in Ms Millane’s system at the time of her death as microbial action thereafter can raise or lower such toxicity.

A pathologist called by the defence said there was no evidence Ms Millane had fought back against the accused, though an expert called by the prosecution said constant pressure on the throat for between five and 10 minutes would be needed to lead to death.

The court was scheduled to adjourn for the weekend if the jury had not reached a verdict by 5pm (0400 GMT).

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