A man has been found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand last year. The jury - made up of seven men and five women - delivered the verdict in the Auckland court today.
The defendant, who has not been named throughout the trial for legal reasons, tried to argue the 21-year-old died accidentally during consensual "rough sex". Following five hours of deliberations, the jury announced it denied this submission, finding him guilty of murder.
During the trial, the court had heard from a woman who gave evidence to say she feared she would die during a previous sexual encounter with the defendant. He forcibly pinned her down, choking her, and it was only when she pretended to pass out that the man released her, the witness said.
Grace Millane was travelling on a year-long trip overseas after graduating from Lincoln University last year. On the night of December 1, 2018 - the eve of her 22nd birthday - she went on a date with the man who would murder her at SkyCity in Central Auckland, after meeting on Tinder. The defendant first told police the pair went their separate ways after some drinks at about 10pm, but changed his story when CCTV footage emerged, depicting the couple returning to the defendant's flat.
The alarm was raised about Grace's disappearance when her family grew concerned that she hadn't responded to any of their birthday messages. After a week of searching, the young woman's body was found inside a suitcase buried in bushland on the outskirts of Auckland.
Tragically, the court heard during the trial how Grace had texted a friend on the night she died, saying she and her date had "clicked", and that the evening was going "really good".
The BBC reports the defendant "showed no emotion" as the verdict was delivered. Grace's parents, David and Gillian Millane, reportedly cried in the public gallery as their daughter's killer was convicted.
They said in a statement that the guilty verdict would be "welcomed by every member of the family and friends of Grace", describing the murder as "barbaric".
"Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever," the devastated parents said outside court.
The judge, Justice Simon Moore, told the court the defendant would be sentenced on 21 February next year.
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