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Grace Millane: Parents of British backpacker in New Zealand as murder trial begins | World News

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The family of British backpacker Grace Millane are set to face her alleged killer in court in New Zealand as his murder trial begins.

David Millane and wife Gillian, from Wickford in Essex, have made the 12,000 mile journey to Auckland, where their daughter died after going on a Tinder date the night before her 22nd birthday last December.

The 27-year-old defendant, a New Zealander who cannot be named for legal reasons, has pleaded not guilty to murdering the Lincoln University graduate in the room of a city centre hotel where he was living full-time.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 09: The scene where the body of British tourist Grace Millane has been found by New Zealand police in the Waitakere Ranges on December 09, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Police have been investigating the disappearance of 22-year-old British woman Grace Millane after she was last seen on Saturday December 1 in Auckland. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
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The scene where the body of Ms Millane was found

He appeared in the dock at Auckland’s High Court on Monday, as a jury of five men and seven women was sworn in to hear the trial – which is set to last for five weeks.

Dressed in a dark suit and black shirt and with his hair close-cropped, the suspect listened as Judge Simon Moore told more than 200 prospective jurors: “This story took the nation by storm, and that interest continues today.”

The judge said Ms Millane’s death had prompted vigils and marches across the country and insisted that any potential jurors must tell him if they had taken part.

He said: “No juror is allowed to be swayed by feelings of sympathy or prejudice. If you can’t give a promise that you will approach the trial with impartiality and even-handedness then you can’t be a juror.”

Mr and Mrs Millane – whose daughter was travelling in New Zealand as part of a year-long trip abroad – spent part of the weekend being briefed by police and lawyers on the evidence they will hear in court.

They are expected to appear in the public gallery on Wednesday, when crown solicitor Brian Dickey will open the prosecution case and details of the death will be heard in public for the first time.

The results of a post-mortem have been suppressed by the court until now, and barrister Ian Brookie will also outline the defence case.

Detectives in New Zealand investigating the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane have found a body.
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The body was found buried in dense woodland west of Auckland

Ms Millane’s body was found buried in dense woodland west of Auckland – a week after she was last seen on CCTV entering the CityLife hotel on the city’s main street.

Ms Millane had begun a solo gap-year adventure weeks earlier after taking a degree in advertising and marketing, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru before arriving in New Zealand in mid-November.

She checked into a backpackers’ hostel the day before her Tinder date.

Her disappearance became one of New Zealand’s most high-profile criminal cases, and even prompted an apology to the Millane family from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that,” she told them in a speech.

“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.”

Ms Millane was last seen entering the CityLife hotel in Auckland. Pic: TVNZ
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Ms Millane was last seen entering the CityLife hotel in Auckland. Pic: TVNZ

Candlelit vigils were held in towns and cities across the country in the days after her death was confirmed, attracting thousands of people.

Mr Millane, who runs a family construction business with his daughter’s brothers Michael and Declan, attended an event in Auckland as he organised flying her body back home.

He listened as renowned local singer Lizzie Marvelly sang Amazing Grace to the crowd, gathered just a short distance from the hotel where his daughter is alleged to have been killed.

Back in the UK, Declan posted a heartfelt tribute to his sister, quoting the song You Are My Sunshine.

The father of missing British backpacker Grace Millane, David Millane, flew to New Zealand
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David Millane flew to New Zealand during the police investigation into his daughter’s disappearance

The family issued a statement denouncing the killing as “heinous”, but thanked the police team who discovered her.

“We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion,” they said.

“Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi.”

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