Tributes to Grace Millane are left at the roundabout in Titirangi, at the start of Scenic Drive in Auckland, New Zealand. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty
Tributes to Grace Millane are left at the roundabout in Titirangi, at the start of Scenic Drive in Auckland, New Zealand. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty

Accused backpacker killer’s chilling note

THE  man charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand allegedly left chilling Facebook note before her death.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in Auckland District Court on Monday morning and did not enter a plea. The man, 26, has been charged with the murder of the 22-year-old from Essex, southeast England.

It has emerged that just 11 minutes before she was last seen alive, a Facebook user alleged to be the accused man left a chilling comment on the talented artist's Facebook profile picture, writing "beautiful very radiant" (sic) with an upside down smiley face emoji. The comment has since been deleted.

 

It is alleged Grace Millane was murdered sometime between December 1 and 2. Picture: Facebook
It is alleged Grace Millane was murdered sometime between December 1 and 2. Picture: Facebook

 

The body of Ms Millane was found in a section of bush just near Scenic Drive in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges on Sunday, following an extensive search for the young woman.

She was last seen alive allegedly in the company of a man on Saturday, December 1, at the CityLife Hotel in Auckland.

It was the second leg of a year-long trip around the world after Ms Millane finished her studies at the University of Lincoln in the UK's East Midlands.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard speaks to the media on December 7 regarding the disappearance of Grace Millane. Picture: Hannah Peters
Detective Inspector Scott Beard speaks to the media on December 7 regarding the disappearance of Grace Millane. Picture: Hannah Peters

The accused sat just metres away from members of Ms Millane's family during his first court appearance in New Zealand. He was jeered and called a "scumbag" by a heckler in the public gallery as his identity was revealed publicly for the first time.

The father-of-one, who appeared in a blue boiler suit, was described as "a very confused man" by his grandmother, who spoke to the MailOnline in court.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Judge Evangelos Thomas started the hearing by addressing the family.

"All of us hope that justice for Grace is fair and swift and ultimately brings you some peace," he said at the outset of the hearing," Judge Thomas said.

"That will not be happening today. There will be no judgment today."

The man, who has name suppression after appealing a judge's decision in court yesterday, is alleged to have killed Ms Millane, 21, sometime between December 1 and 2.

Both police and Ms Millane's family opposed name suppression, which was eventually declined by Judge Thomas.

The man's lawyer, Ian Brookie, instantly appealed the decision, which automatically imposes a 20 working day suppression under New Zealand law.

 

A picture posted on Instagram by Declan Millane, Grace’s brother.
A picture posted on Instagram by Declan Millane, Grace’s brother.

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an emotional apology to the family of Ms Millane, saying her nation feels a collective shame over her death.

Ms Ardern held back tears as she opened a press conference with an apology.

"From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality … especially to those who are visiting our shores," she said.

"On behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologise to Grace's family. Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn't and I'm sorry for that."

The government had offered its support to the Millane family, Ms Ardern said.

"I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they will be experiencing."

Her sentiment echoed widespread shock among much of the New Zealand public.

Candlelight vigils were being planned around the country and the operators of the Sky Tower - the most distinctive building in Auckland's skyline - said it would be lit in white until Thursday night as a tribute.

The Millane family were grateful and gave their blessing for the planned events, but would not be attending, police said in a statement.

The man's next appearance will be in the High Court on January 23.

The Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in white is seen on December 10 in Auckland. Picture: Hannah Peters
The Auckland Sky Tower illuminated in white is seen on December 10 in Auckland. Picture: Hannah Peters
A CCTV image believed to show the last time Grace Millane was seen alive. Picture: NZ Police/AP
A CCTV image believed to show the last time Grace Millane was seen alive. Picture: NZ Police/AP

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