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‘I click with him’, backpacker Grace Millane said of alleged killer

The young Briton’s body was found in a suitcase in a shallow grave outside Auckland.

Grace Millane (Auckland City Police/PA)
Grace Millane (Auckland City Police/PA)

By Benjamin Cooper, PA, in Auckland

Grace Millane messaged her friend to say “I click with him so well” about the man she was on a date with who allegedly strangled her hours later, a court in New Zealand has heard.

Ms Millane’s friend, Ameena Ashcroft, said in a letter read to Auckland High Court that she “thought something was out of place” when the young woman sent a series of messages on December 1, 2018, in which Ms Millane admitted to wanting to “get smashed” with the man she met on Tinder.

The Crown has alleged that the man, who cannot be named due to a suppression order, murdered the young woman from Wickford, Essex, and shoved her body inside a suitcase before burying her in a forested area outside Auckland.

The defence claims the death, on either December 1 or December 2, 2018, the date of Ms Millane’s 22nd birthday, was accidental.

Security footage played for the jury showed Ms Millane, who was on a round-the-world trip, visit a number of bars in the city centre with the accused 27-year-old where they drank alcohol.

They kissed repeatedly at the Bluestone Room before walking arm-in-arm a short distance into the lobby of the CityHigh hotel where the defendant was staying.

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Ms Millane was shown kissing her alleged killer at the Bluestone Room, Auckland (Benjamin Cooper/PA)

Ms Millane was shown to follow the defendant out of the lift at 9.41pm.

It was the last time she was seen alive.

Gillian Millane, the mother of the deceased woman, left the court in tears as detective Samuel Luker described a series of photographs found on the defendant’s phone.

Those photographs taken in the early hours of December 2, 2018 showed intimate photos of a woman’s body, the detective said, which the Crown has alleged were taken of Ms Millane after her death.

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The last place Ms Millane was seen alive was walking out of an elevator on the third floor of CityLife Hotel (Benjamin Cooper/PA)

The defendant, wearing a navy blue suit and black shirt, did not react as Gillian Millane walked out of the courtroom.

David Millane looked directly at the defendant as the detective confirmed pornography was looked at on the man’s phone after his daughter’s death.

But he cast his eyes down when he heard the defendant had searched online for “rigor mortis”.

The data showed the man had used Google to browse websites for large duffel bags, suitcases and car hire.

The defendant’s phone was also used to search for “flesh-eating birds” and “are there vultures in New Zealand?” days later, on December 5, 2018.

Records showed the defendant had searched online for “the hottest fire”, “large bags near me” and “Waitakere Ranges” – where Ms Millane’s body was later found contorted inside a suitcase on December 9, 2018 – before going on another Tinder date later that day.

Her parents had wept in court as they heard that earrings and a small metal tag inscribed with the word “freedom” were also found inside the suitcase.

The trial continues and is expected to last five weeks.

PA

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