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07-11-2019

Grace Millane death: Backpacker and murder accused 'on CCTV'

Image caption Grace Millane's last movements were captured on CCTV

British backpacker Grace Millane and the man accused of her murder were spotted kissing on CCTV while on a Tinder date, a court heard.

Footage shows them in bars and at the hotel where Miss Millane is alleged to have been killed in New Zealand.

Miss Millane, from Wickford, Essex, was on a round-the-world trip when she died in Auckland, last December.

During the date Miss Millane messaged a friend about the defendant, saying "I click with him", the jury heard.

Referring to the footage "just short of six terabytes of data, which is a significant amount" was examined, detective Adam Bicknell told Auckland High Court.

It shows Miss Millane leaving the Base Backpackers hostel and walking to the Sky City entertainment complex, where she met and embraced the 27-year-old defendant, who cannot be be named for legal reasons.

Grace Millane and the defendant taking the lift to his apartmentImage caption CCTV footage shows Grace Millane

The trial earlier heard how the man accused of Miss Millane's murder went on a further Tinder date while her body was in a suitcase in his hotel room.

The suspect denies murder.

David and Gillian MillaneImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Grace Millane's parents are attending the trial in Auckland

Miss Millane, was last seen in Auckland on 1 December, before her body was found a week later.

'Solo backpacking didn't kill Grace'

Referring to the messages she sent during the date, a letter by her university friend Ameena Ashcroft was read to the jury.

In it, she said Miss Millane told her she was "getting smashed" and the date was going "really good".

Grace Millane, 22, from Essex, who went missing in New ZealandImage copyright REX/Shutterstock Image caption The prosecution believes the suspect was not concerned or distressed by the death

In the hours before she disappeared Miss Millane and the defendant were seen at a burger bar in the Sky City development, before going to a Mexican cafe and then the Bluestone Room in Durham Lane.

Grace Millane and suspectImage caption In the hours before she disappeared Miss Millane and the defendant were seen in the Sky City Development

Footage shows they spent just over an hour at the venue, during which time the defendant leaned across and kissed Miss Millane lightly, before then putting his hand on the back of her head and kissing her in a more sustained manner.

They continued kissing and talking for a while, before leaving and walking arm-in-arm down the street and into the lobby of CityLife at 21:40.

They entered the lifts and Miss Millane followed the accused out of the lift to his apartment on the third floor of the hotel.

Prosecutors allege she was strangled to death in the apartment.

Presentational grey line

Simon Atkinson BBC News, Auckland

On the face of it this was, as the lead prosecutor put it , "the sort of evening many a young person travelling the world would enjoy".

Meeting someone, touring bars, drinking and chatting. There were lots of smiles from Grace Millane on the CCTV footage played to the court room.

A text message exchange with a friend in one of those bars read out in court was an emoji-packed carefree stream of consciousness from a young woman having a good time.

But knowing what happened next meant watching those shots of Grace was chilling. I'm told the Millane family had already been taken through the CCTV by police.

Later there were images of a different sort. Seen only by the jurors - intimate pictures of Grace Millane that the killer took on his phone after Grace had died.

Her mother Gillian sobbed as a police detective in the witness box was asked about the pictures - until it became too much and she hurried out - unable to bear hearing any more.

Presentational grey line

The defence team argues Ms Millane died by accident during consensual sex, saying "acts designed to enhance sexual pleasure went wrong".

The court has been told he buried her later in a suitcase in the Waitakere Ranges, near Auckland.

Media caption Members of Grace Millane's family carried her coffin

Miss Millane's death prompted an outpouring of public grief in New Zealand with the country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologising to her family.

The young woman had been on a round-the-world trip, travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following six weeks in South America.

The trial is expected to last one month.

https://bbc.in/2Q5Oxkn

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