Man found guilty of murder of British backpacker Grace Millane
22 November 2019, 06:17 | Updated: 22 November 2019, 14:17
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.
The young woman from Wickford, Essex, was strangled by the 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 murderer, whose name is subject to a suppression order, shoved Ms Millane's body inside a suitcase before burying her in the Waitakere Ranges outside the city.
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.
Justice Simon Moore told jury members before they delivered their verdict that they had to be certain the man had murderous intent, as defined by the Crimes Act, when he put his hands on Ms Millane's neck during sexual intercourse to convict him of murder, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Mr Millane and Grace's mother, Gillian Millane, wept after the verdict was read out, Nine Media's Stuff website reported.
The couple sat in the public gallery since the trial began on November 4, during which time they have been accompanied by Detective Scott Beard, who led the search for their daughter.
Several jurors also cried after the verdict was delivered.
The killer stood emotionless, flanked by two corrections officers, as the verdict was announced.
He was remanded to custody until his sentencing on February 21, 2020.
Mr Millane cried as he told reporters: "The verdict of murder today will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family and friends of Grace.
"It will not reduce the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the past year.
"Grace was taken in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives have been ripped apart.
"Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever."
He added: "She did not deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way during her gap year."
He acknowledged the efforts of New Zealand's police, Det Insp Beard and thanked the prosecution team and the media.
"Finally we want to thank the people of New Zealand. I can't thank you enough for our your kindness and for opening your hearts to us," Mr Millane said.