Backpacker’s devastating last message
The father of British backpacker Grace Millane says his daughter was in "good spirits" and would message her family almost every day as she travelled around the world on her gap year.
The 21-year-old marketing graduate had visited parts of South America, including Chile, Patagonia and Peru, before she disappeared shortly after arriving in New Zealand in November last year, David Millane said.
The evidence was read to the High Court in Auckland on Wednesday, where a 27-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons is now on trial for Ms Millane's murder.
"We heard from Grace virtually every day … she enjoyed sharing her adventures with us," Mr Millane recalled in evidence read by Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey.
She was also in constant contact with her two brothers on social media, he said, but those messages suddenly stopped on December 1, the day before her 22nd birthday.
The last message she sent to her family before she disappeared was a photograph of a Christmas tree at SkyCity, a hotel and casino in Auckland, Mr Millane said.
COURT HEARS TIMELINE OF EVENTS
The court heard Ms Millane arrived in Auckland on November 30 and that day connected with the accused on the dating app Tinder.
The next day, the pair met at SkyCity and then spent the evening together before going back to Auckland's CityLife Hotel.
CCTV cameras showed Ms Millane and the accused were "plainly comfortable, plainly enjoying themselves", Mr McCoubrey said.
The footage also showed the two of them kissing before entering the accused's apartment at about 9.40pm on December 1.
Ms Millane's body was then found in a section of bush just 10 metres off Scenic Drive in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges on December 9.
A post mortem examination later revealed she died as a result of pressure on her neck.
'I DIDN'T KNOW GRACE WAS DATING'
Mr Millane said his daughter was an engaging young woman who got on with people young and old, but she was also cautious.
"She was savvy about people in general and she was not overly trusting of people, but not overly shy," he said.
She had had two serious boyfriends before embarking on her travels, but Mr Millane said he did not know she was dating online while overseas.
"I did not know specifically Grace was dating online … I don't believe children tell their parents everything, and nor should they, necessarily," he said.
LAWYER CLAIMS DEATH WAS ACCIDENTAL
The accused has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Millane.
He admits being with her when she died and disposing of her body, but claims he did not intentionally harm the young Brit.
He says the pair were intoxicated and had increasingly rough sex the night Ms Millane died. He then claims he fell asleep in the shower and awoke to find her on the floor with blood coming from her nose, the New Zealand Herald reported.
His lawyer Ian Brookie said it was a simple case of an accident involving a young couple who had engaged in consensual sexual activity with the sole purpose of pleasure.
"The defence says that this was not a murder ... these actions were part of sexual activities that they were doing together and they were in no way intended to cause any harm to her," he said.
"It was an accident ... it occurred during a perfectly ordinary casual sexual encounter between a young couple who met up on Tinder."
The Crown argues the accused not only murdered Ms Millane, he then "coldly and methodically" disposed of her body in a shallow grave and cleaned the scene - trying his best to "break any link" between himself and his victim.
An examination of his phone showed he was using Google search from 1.29am on December 2. He searched the Waitakere Ranges and "hottest fire" and then watched a pornographic video.
Later he allegedly took seven intimate photos of Ms Millane.
- With the New Zealand Herald