The New Zealand man found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 21 years.
The man appeared in Auckland’s high court on Friday morning, and his sentencing was overseen by Justice Simon Moore.
The Man had been assessed in his pre-sentencing report as being of “very high risk”, based on his “complex needs” and the severity of the offending.
“Manual strangulation is a particularly intimate form of violence… cold-blooded,” Moore said. “Your actions reveal a complete disregard for your victim.”
“You didn’t ring an ambulance, or call the police, instead you embarked on a well-planned and sustained and coordinated course of action to conceal any evidence of what had occurred in your room.”
There was no emotion shown by the man found guilty of Millane’s murder, and he listened to his sentencing impassively.
As a mother I would have done anything to change places with her.
“I should have been there, but she died terrified and alone in a room with you.”
The crown prosecutor Brian Dickey said the man’s crime against Millane had been “Personalized, depraved and callous” and the crime had a profound impact on young women’s sense of safety in New Zealand, with many reassessing their relationships with men, or dating life, and how safe they should feel.
The man’s consumption of explicit pornography and intimate photographs taken of Millane after she died, were evidence of “depravity”, Dickey argued. He said his disposal of her body in a suitcase in a shallow grave in bushland made it a unique case in New Zealand for its “extensive cruelty” during and after her death, and its wide ramifications in the community, especially for women.
Ian Brookie, the defense counsel, argued the man was young at the time of the murder, had no significant prior criminal convictions, and could be rehabilitated with a lower sentence of years. The man has maintained his innocence throughout.
Brookie also said the man was isolated from his Māori culture, estranged from his family and had a “traumatic” childhood and upbringing.
In November last year a jury of seven women and five men took five hours to find the – year-old man – who has name suppression and cannot be identified – guilty of Millane’s murder . The reason for the name suppression is also suppressed by court order.
The prosecution argued that he had used “reckless violence” while strangling. Millane during sex, and disregarded the risk to her life when choking her so hard and for so long that she died. A forensic pathologist said it would have taken five to 11 minutes for Millane to have died, and she would first have fallen unconscious due to the pressure on her neck.
“You can’t consent to your own murder,” said crown prosecutor Brian Dickey
during the three-week-trial in Auckland’s high court.
The man found guilty of Millane’s murder had a long history of Tinder dating, with a number of his former dates cutting off contact with him because they felt “uncomfortable” with his behavior.
The accused, who lived in an inner-city hotel, had a reported interest in choking and domination, and a history of telling exaggerated stories and lies – including that he had cancer, was a professional athlete, and worked as an “Oil manager” offshore.
Millane’s murder shocked New Zealand, which has a low homicide rate, and prompted the prime minister Jacinda Ardern to offer a public apology.
“On behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologise to Grace’s family – your daughter should have been been safe here and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.”
Thousands of people attended candlelit vigils after Millane died, calling for an end to violence against women, and Ardern said New Zealanders collectively experienced “hurt and shame” around the tragedy. According to the Ministry of Justice 80, 17 are the victims of domestic violence in New Zealand each year.
A charity started in Millane’s name, Love Grace , launched in New Zealand this week and has seen an influx of donations . The charity donates handbags full of essentials and luxuries to women-in-need, and has already helped hundreds of women in Millane’s home county of Essex.
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