The man who strangled a former Lincoln student to death during sex before stuffing her body inside a suitcase has been sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 17 years jail time.
Grace Millane, a graduate from the University of Lincoln and former hockey club vice captain, was on a trip to New Zealand when she went on a date with the man, who still cannot be named for legal reasons and keeps name suppression after sentencing.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the reasons for the order and the legal arrangements made by both the Crown and defence are also suppressed. However, he has been named and pictured in a UK report.
The 28-year-old man, who was found guilty and convicted in November, was led into the dock with two court security guards in the High Court at Auckland.
Grace and the defender had met on the Tinder dating app and visited a number of bars in the city centre a day before her 22nd birthday in December 2018.
They returned to the City Life hotel and leisure complex, where he was staying, and a trial previously heard how he had choked her to death during sex.
The backpacker’s body was later found stuffed in a suitcase in bushland outside Auckland, New Zealand.
The defendant’s internet search history, expert witnesses and those who knew about his tendency to dominate women were canvassed during the trial. However, the defence tried to use expert evidence and those who knew the victim to argue it was an “accidental death during erotic asphyxiation”.
Upon sentencing, Justice Simon Moore told the defendant: “You are a large and powerful man. She was diminutive. You were in a position of total physical dominance.”
Grace’s mother, brother and sister-in-law read emotional victim impact statements via video link from England.
Her mother, Gillian, told the defendant she is “tormented” at how her daughter “died terrified and alone in a room with you”.
She said: “Grace wasn’t just my daughter. She was my friend. My very best friend. I am absolutely heartbroken that you have taken my daughter’s future and robbed us of so many memories that we were going to create.
“The tears I shed are never-ending at the thought of never having the chance to kiss my Grace goodbye.”
A plethora of tributes were also paid to Grace, both shortly after her death, and by family during the trial. A close friend and fellow University of Lincoln Hockey player was among those to leave tributes.
Scott Beard, Detective Inspector at Auckland City Police, said: “Today’s sentencing sees the end of what has been a long and difficult period of time for the Millane family. The impact of losing their daughter on her birthday while alone in a foreign country has been significant and no matter what the outcome they will forever have a life sentence.
“Even though their lives have been changed forever, we hope with support from family and friends they can now try in some way to move forward with their lives.
“I would like to thank the police staff who worked on this investigation, they have been nothing but professional, hardworking and determined to bring justice for Grace.
“The sentencing today is a reflection of the gravity and ongoing impact her murderer’s actions have had, not only on the family but also on people across New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Grace’s family and friends as they continue to try and make sense of her senseless and needless death.”