Grace Millane murder trial: British backpacker texted friend, ‘I click with him so well’, hours before Tinder date strangled her, court hears

Zoe Tidman
British backpacker Grace Millane, 22, was found dead inside a suitcase in a forested area of Auckland, New Zealand, on 9 December, 2019: Auckland City Police/PA

A British backpacker found dead in a suitcase had text her friend during a date with the man accused of her murder to say “I click with him so well”, a court has heard.

Grace Millane was allegedly choked to death during rough sexual intercourse with the 27-year-old defendant, whose name has been suppressed by a court in New Zealand.

Ameena Ashcroft, Ms Millane’s friend, received messages from the backpacker saying she “wanted to get smashed” with the man she met on Tinder, Auckland High Court heard via a letter.

Ms Ashcroft “thought something was out of place” after receiving the texts, her letter said.

Ms Millane and the defendant were seen drinking together and kissing at bars in Auckland city centre on 1 December 2018, the day before her 22nd birthday, according to CCTV footage viewed by the jury.

Other footage showed the young woman walking from a lift to the defendant’s hotel room at 9.41pm that night, which is the last time she is seen alive.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told the court on Wednesday that the alleged killer had first told police he met Ms Millane “for a drink and then parted company”.

He later changed his story to say they had had sexual intercourse that involved biting and hitting, Mr McCoubrey said.

Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, was in New Zealand on a gap year at the time of her death.

Her body was found buried inside a suitcase in a forest area near Auckland on 9 December.

The defence case is that Ms Millane “died as a result of what [the pair] consensually engaged in together” and that her death was accidental.

Samuel Luker, a detective, described intimate photographs of a woman’s body found on the defendant’s phone to the court, which prosecutors said were taken after Ms Millane’s death.

At this point, Gillian Millane, the mother of the deceased woman, left the court in tears.

The detective also said the defendant searched for pornography and “rigor mortis” on his phone.

Mr McCoubrey said the defendant conducted additional online searches for the terms “the hottest fire”, “large bags near me” and “Waitakere Ranges”, the location where Ms Millane’s body was found, in the hours after her death.

The crown also alleges that the defendant went on another date on 2 December.

Records showed he searched “flesh-eating birds” and “are there vultures in New Zealand?” on 5 December.

The trial is expected to last for five weeks.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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British backpacker ‘choked to death by Tinder date during rough sex’