Body Found in Search for Murdered British Backpacker in New Zealand

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
December 9, 2018 Updated: December 9, 2018

New Zealand police said on Dec. 9 they believe they have found the body of a missing 22-year-old British woman after charging a 26-year-old man with her murder.

Grace Millane went missing on Dec. 1 in Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, just one day before her 22nd birthday. She had been travelling the world after graduating from college.

Police said on Saturday she had been murdered and they were questioning a man in connection with her death.

Grace Millane
Grace Millane during her graduation from the University of Lincoln in September 2018. (Lucie Blackman Trust)

Detective Inspector Scott Beard told reporters late on Saturday that the man, who was not identified by name, has been charged with Millane’s murder.

“Sadly, the evidence we have gathered to this point of the enquiry has established that this is a homicide,” said Detective Inspector Scott Beard, of the Auckland City Police on Dec. 8, adding that her family was “devastated.”

The unnamed suspect is expected to make a court appearance on Monday morning.

The man has been reported by the Daily Mail as having gone on a Tinder date with Millane on the night she disappeared.

‘Unbearable’

Beard said investigators have not formally identified the body, but they believe it is that of the missing woman.

“I can now advise that shortly after 4 p.m. today, we located a body, which we believe to be Grace,” he said in a statement.

“Obviously, this brings the search for Grace to an end,” Beard said. “It is an unbearable time for the Millane family and our hearts go out to them.”

He added that Millane’s family, including her father, who flew to New Zealand on Friday, has been informed. Asked how the father was doing, Beard said, “Any father, any parent in this situation would struggle.”

The Search

Police had earlier declared the portion of a bush area in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges as of interest in the investigation.

“Since early this morning a scene examination has been underway in a section of bush on Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges,” Beard said.

The British woman’s body was found about 10 meters (30 feet) from the side of the road, hidden in bushland.

Investigators believe it had been taken there in a rental car that was recently found nearly 300 kilometers (186 miles) away in Taupo.

Police have reached out to the public with a request for information about the case and released a photograph of the rental car connected with Millane’s murder investigation.

“I am releasing two photographs of a 2016 red Toyota Corolla hatchback,” Beard said in a statement. “This car was hired from a central Auckland rental car company. We need to hear from anyone who saw this car last Monday morning, between 6 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. in the West Auckland area.”

a car connected to the murder of Grace Millane
A vehicle identified by the New Zealand police as connected to the murder of Grace Millane. (New Zealand Police)

Beard said the investigation would continue “for some time yet.”

“The focus now is to piece together exactly what happened to a young girl, who came to this country on her OE,” he said.

‘Outgoing, Fun-Loving, Family-Orientated Daughter’

Members of her family flew out to New Zealand from England the day before the police announced her death.

In an earlier statement, her father, David Millane, described her as “a lovely, outgoing, fun-loving, family-orientated daughter.”

The family had been alerted when Millane’s stream of regular updates of her exploits suddenly fell silent.

“Grace has never been out of contact for this amount of time and is usually in daily contact with either her mother, myself, or her two brothers,” said Millane.

She was on a yearlong worldwide overseas experience, he said. “Grace started this travel journey in Peru in South America and was really looking forward to the second leg in New Zealand.”

“She arrived here on the 20th of November and has bombarded us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures,” he said.

The young traveler, from Essex, England, was last seen at the CityLife hotel in Auckland with the male suspect, according to the Daily Mail.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'