Father’s tribute: Grace “will forever be a Kiwi”

The father of Grace Millane has issued an emotional statement thanking the people of New Zealand for “their outpouring of love”, adding that his daughter “will forever be a Kiwi”.

Grace’s father David Millane will take his daughter’s body home at the weekend after the family saw their “whole world turned upside down” by her death – treated by police as murder.

The 22-year-old University of Lincoln graduate and former hockey club vice captain had been enjoying an around-the-world backpacking trip when she disappeared in the city of Auckland on December 1.

After a thorough investigation fears turned to tragedy when police searching for Grace in New Zealand discovered a body.

Jesse Kempson, 26, who it’s understood was seen with her in the CityLife hotel, appeared in court on Monday charged with her murder.

She will forever be a Kiwi

A statement from David and family read: “Grace went off to travel the world in mid-October and arrived in New Zealand on the November 20.

Grace’s father David Millane. Photo: Screenshot from Guardian News YouTube channel

“By the amount of pictures and messages we received she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle.

“After the disappearance of Grace on December 1 2018 our whole world turned upside down.

“I arrived in Auckland on Friday, December 7, followed by my brother Martin on Saturday 8. From that very first moment we have been astounded by the level of concern, sympathy and selfless help from every person we have met.

“Auckland Police have carried out the most concise, stringent and thorough investigation. The team, consisting at times of over 24 officers have worked arduous long hours without a day off, little sleep or rest in helping to resolve this heinous crime.

Family and friends were faced with radio silence since December 1.

“The media and press have been superb in their coverage and reporting of the events surrounding Grace’s tragic final days. They have not intruded into our life and have been respectful and courteous at all times.

“Gill, Michael, Declan and myself would sincerely like to thank everybody involved and express our most profound gratitude.

“In this difficult situation where everybody is a true hero it is sometimes difficult to single out certain people. Despite this we would like to offer our most sincere thanks and everlasting gratitude to;

Detective Inspector Scott Beard at Auckland City Police.

“Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who has been a most measured, selfless, human and professional face of Auckland Police. His emotional media statements have made him many fans both in New Zealand and at home in the UK.

“Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Brand, the hidden driving force of the investigation and a true police professional.

“We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own OE.

A confirmed sighting of Grace on Saturday, the day she was last seen. Photo: New Zealand Police

“Martin and I had the privilege of attending the traditional Maori blessing of the site which was a lovely and peaceful experience.

“Finally we would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion.

“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.

“My brother Martin and I leave for the UK this weekend to take her home.”

Tributes and fundraising

Tributes continue to pour in for Grace Millane. Photo: Facebook

A close friend and fellow University of Lincoln Hockey player said Grace “gave everyone around her the strength and courage to chase their ambition”, in a heartfelt tribute.

The hockey club launched a fundraiser in Grace’s memory on Monday for two chosen charities – Lincolnshire cancer charity Candles and the Lucie Blackman trust which has been supporting her family.

The team’s £1,000 target has already been smashed, with the total at £3,890 at the time of writing.

The hockey team are also holding a friendly match today (December 12) to raise additional funds.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand also issued an apology to the family of Grace Millane as police investigated her death.

Tributes continue to pour in for Grace, including on Twitter with many using the hashtag #HerLightOurLove