A dark cloud has been cast over New Zealand following the discovery of 21-year-old Grace Millane’s body. The British backpacker was enjoying her year-long overseas experience when she went missing from central Auckland on 1 December. A week after her disappearance, Millane’s body was located amidst thick forestry in West Auckland.
Millane’s family raised concerns over her whereabouts when she failed to respond to birthday messages. Her father, David Millane, flew to New Zealand whilst detectives worked tirelessly to find his daughter. Speaking to the media, he described her as a ‘lovely, outgoing, family-orientated’ girl who ordinarily maintained contact daily.
The 21-year-old was last seen entering Citylife hotel at 9:41pm on the night of her disappearance; she was accompanied by her suspected killer. The 27-year-old man – whose name remains protected by New Zealand law – is believed to have murdered Grace between 1 and 2 December. He was charged on 8 December and is expected to stand trial on 4 November having pleaded not guilty on 16 January.
Mass candlelit vigils have been held for Millane in every major town in New Zealand and their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, issued a tearful apology. She detailed the ‘overwhelming sense of hurt and shame’ that has engulfed the country. Mr Millane thanked New Zealanders on behalf of his family for their kindness and compassion.
In a statement he reiterated their appreciation for the country, saying that whilst she ‘was not born here, you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi’. He encouraged all those who yearn to travel to do so and prayed that no-one will be deterred by what sadly happened to his daughter.