Backpacker murder suspect appears in court

Grace MillaneImage copyright
Lucie Blackman Trust

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The 22-year-old arrived in New Zealand in mid-November for the second part of her round-the-world trip

A 26-year-old man has appeared in court in New Zealand charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane.

Miss Millane disappeared in Auckland on 1 December – police ended their search on Sunday after finding a body on the outskirts of the city.

The man, who cannot be named, is due back in court next month.

Court documents showed he had been living at the Citylife Hotel on Queen Street in central Auckland, which is where Miss Millane was last seen.

The judge acknowledged Miss Millane’s family’s grief “must be desperate”.

Documents also showed police believe the University of Lincoln graduate – who was 22 and from Essex – was killed between 1 December and 2 December.

The body – which has not yet been formally identified but the police believe to be Miss Millane’s – was found “about 10 metres” off Scenic Drive, a countryside road outside the city, Det Insp Scott Beard said.

On Sunday, Declan Millane, one of Miss Millane’s brothers, shared a collection of photographs of his sister online, alongside the lyrics to the chorus of the song You Are My Sunshine.

The University of Lincoln, from which Miss Millane graduated earlier this year, paid tribute and said its community was “deeply saddened”.

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Media captionNew Zealand Police investigating the murder of a British backpacker confirm the discovery of a body

Miss Millane had been travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following a six-week group trip through South America.

The announcement on Saturday by police that Miss Millane was “no longer alive” followed a review of CCTV footage, the forensic examination of a hotel where she was last seen, and the discovery of a vehicle.

Det Insp Beard issued an appeal for anybody who saw a red Toyota Corolla rental car, which had been hired from a company in Auckland, between 06:30 and 09:30 local time on Monday 3 December.

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New Zealand Police

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Police said their focus is to “piece together exactly what happened” and want to hear from anyone who saw this car last Monday morning

Police said her family were “devastated” after being told the missing persons case had become a murder investigation.

Speaking at a news conference in Auckland on Friday, Grace’s father, David Millane, described his daughter as “lovely” and “family-orientated”.

He added that his daughter had been “bombarding us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures” before she went missing.

New Zealanders have been expressing sadness at the news. Ruth Dyson, an MP for Port Hills in New Zealand’s Parliament, was among those who offered condolences on social media, tweeting that her country is grieving with Miss Millane’s family.

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Getty Images

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The body was found in an area of woodland in the Waitakere Ranges, which is a region of rainforest and beaches west of Auckland popular with hikers

Timeline of Grace Millane’s disappearance

20 November: Grace Millane arrives in New Zealand after visiting Peru as part of her year-long round-the-world trip.

1 December, 19:00 local time: Miss Millane is seen on Victoria Street in the city centre of Auckland. A short while later – 15 minutes – she is seen on CCTV at Sky City, a complex of hotels, restaurants, bars and a casino.

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Police released CCTV images of the backpacker at Auckland’s Sky City entertainment complex before she disappeared

1 December, 21:41: Later that evening, she is seen with a “male companion” at Citylife Hotel on Queen Street, which is just a few minutes’ walk from Sky City.

2 December: Miss Millane’s 22nd birthday. She is not in contact with her family. At just before midday, a red Toyota Corolla hatchback rental car is hired from a company in central Auckland.

3 December: The red car is believed to have been in the west Auckland area between 6:30 and 9:30, police say.

5 December: Miss Millane is reported missing to police and a public appeal is issued.

7 December: Miss Millane’s father, David, lands in Auckland and makes a plea for information. Police say they have identified the male companion and have spoken to him.

8 December: A man, 26, is located at an address in central Auckland at 15:00 and is taken into custody.

Later that day, police announce they are treating the disappearance as a murder investigation. Officers say the 26-year-old man is to be charged with Miss Millane’s murder.

9 December: Police search an area of forest near Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges beauty spot. Shortly after 16:00, police find a body which is believed to be Miss Millane.

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