It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, but Grace Millane’s backpacking holiday had barely begun when her life ended at the hands of a “sociopath” interested in “dominating and strangulation”, according to a previous partner of his.
After her killer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years, Miss Millane’s family and friends are left to reflect on a life cut cruelly short.
Grace Emmie Rose Millane was born in Brentwood, Essex, on 2 December 1996, the third child and only daughter of parents Gillian and David, who already had two young sons, Michael and Declan.
An outgoing teenager who loved music and was a talented hockey player, she went on to earn a degree in advertising and marketing from the University of Lincoln.
Image: Miss Millane was killed the day before her 22nd birthday
She was described by her father, David Millane, as a “gregarious” young woman who had long dreamed of travelling the world.
Before she left on the trip, she cut off her long brown hair and donated it to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children who have lost their hair because of cancer.
She left her home in Wickford, Essex, in October 2018 and flew to South America, where, from Peru, she posted pictures of llamas to social media.
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After arriving in New Zealand on 20 November, she spent 10 days travelling around the upper North Island, including Cape Reinga and the Bay of Islands, before heading to Auckland.
There she met and socialised with other travellers and appeared to be just a typical, fun young woman enjoying an overseas adventure.
Image: Police used luminol to show traces of blood on the carpet in the hotel room
But two days after arriving in New Zealand’s largest city on 30 November, Miss Millane would be dead, the day before her 22nd birthday.
A man she connected with on dating app Tinder choked her to death and watched porn afterwards, before taking photos of her naked body and stuffing her into a suitcase, which he buried in a forest.
The 28-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for a minimum of 17 years.
Miss Millane’s mother addressed the killer in court via videolink on the day the verdict was read out.
‘You ripped a hole in my heart’
She said: (Grace) died terrified and alone in a room with you, whose name isn’t even spoken among friends and family.
“You have ripped a hole in my heart, one that will never be repaired.”
Mrs Millane had quietly wept as the guilty verdict was delivered after just five hours of deliberations by the jury.
And outside court, a tearful Mr Millane said: “Grace was a beautiful, talented, loving daughter. Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever.
“She did not deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way during her gap year.”
Image: Miss Millane was the only daughter of Gillian and David Millane
The case provoked a backlash from women’s rights campaigners because, they said, it showed how female victims can seem to be on trial if they have an active or unusual sex life.
Jurors in the three-week trial in Auckland heard Miss Millane had profiles on BDSM dating websites and had tried asphyxiation in the past.
In court her killer said she died “accidentally” during rough sex, an increasingly common defence for men whose partners die during sexual activity.
Image: The hotel room where Miss Millane died
He even claimed she encouraged him to choke her because she was a fan of the 50 Shades Of Grey films.
A former partner said she had to fight for her life when he suffocated her during sex on their date, which came weeks before Miss Millane was killed.
She called him a “lying sociopath” who had an interest in “dominating and strangulation”.
Miss Millane’s family have set up a charity in her memory, called Love Grace, where handbags and toiletries are collected for domestic abuse victims.
The scheme, inspired by her love of handbags, is running in the US, Canada and New Zealand as well as Britain.
Source : Sky News