November 16, 2021 11.08 am

Documentary reveals steps “narcissist” took to cover up Grace Millane’s murder

Unseen footage of the killer in interview, and a statement from Grace’s family

An ITV documentary about the murder of University of Lincoln graduate Grace Millane while she backpacked in New Zealand has revealed the harrowing details of the police investigation which cornered her killer.

The Murder of Grace Millane: Social Media Murders was aired on ITV2 at 9pm on Monday, November 15, as part of a three-part documentary series looking into how people use social media to commit serious crimes.

Grace, a marketing graduate from the University of Lincoln, went missing the day before her 22nd birthday after going on a date with Jesse Kempson, who she had met on the online dating app Tinder.

Grace Millane.

She was last seen in Auckland on December 1, 2018, spotted on CCTV stepping into a lift with Kempson in a hotel. Her body was not found until eight days later in the Waitakere Ranges, some 12 miles west of Central Auckland.

During a three-week trial in November 2019, Jesse Kempson, then 28, was convicted of Grace’s murder after it was found that he had strangled her to death during sex and stuffed her body inside a suitcase.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 17 years on February 2020, and has since been convicted of sex attacks on two more women – serving the 11 year sentences for these charges concurrently with his jail time for Grace’s murder.

Here are 10 details from the documentary that detailed the series of events before, during and after Grace’s death:


Parents became worried after silence on Grace’s birthday

Grace pictured at her graduation in 2018. | Photo: Facebook

Grace’s last sighting was on CCTV in the CityLife Hotel on Queen Street that her killer Jesse Kempson was staying in on December 1, 2018. It was the day before her 22nd birthday.

Suspicions and fears for her wellbeing began back in England on December 2, when her parents said she had not responded to calls and messages about her birthday.

Grace’s disappearance became a major news story across the world, and in local publication like The Lincolnite and in her home county of Essex.


Police found killer on Facebook

Jesse Kempson is Grace’s killer. | Photo: Facebook

Investigating officers looking into Grace’s disappearance got in touch with Jesse Kempson after seeing that he was the last person to leave a comment on Grace’s most recent Facebook profile picture.

He had been using a different surname on the social media platform, but gave his official name to police before coming in for interview the next day.


Lies about date with Grace

Photo: Screenshot from video by Chris Tarpey/New Zealand Herald

During his first police interview, Kempson claimed that he had gone on a date with Grace before going their separate ways at 8pm, when he went to a bar, had “ten drinks” and can’t remember anything else beyond waking up in his hotel room.

Little did he know, CCTV footage showed him and Grace going to more bars together beyond 8pm.


Former housemates ‘never felt comfortable’ around him

ITV spoke to a former housemate of Jesse Kempson, and she described him as “charming with stories of the life he’d lived” as well as “chatty, lovely and nice.”

However, she said that over time everyone became more wary of him, to the point where another housemate slept with a knife by her side when alone in the house with him.

He was a consistent liar according to his housemate, who said he pretended to be in a higher job position than he was, and she says his behaviour begged the question: “What else was he hiding?”


Kempson released after first interview

Photo of his hotel room, issued by Auckland City Police

Police in Auckland had no physical evidence to charge Kempson after his first interview, meaning he was released following his opening interview.

Investigators then issued a search warrant on his hotel room, which found copious amounts of blood stains on the carpet and gave police the evidence they needed.


He bought items to dispose of body the morning after

Photo issued by Auckland City Police. Inspectors used luminal to highlight blood stains on the floor of the killer’s apartment.

In perhaps the most incriminating CCTV evidence of the whole case, Kempson was seen purchasing a suitcase the morning after the murder, clearly to dispose of Grace’s body from the scene.

He also bought cleaning products and a shovel from separate stores to attempt to cover the blood stains in the hotel room and then bury the body in woodlands.

Later in the trial, it was also discovered that he had hired a rug doctor and a vacuum cleaner after dumping Grace’s body, again trying to eradicate evidence.


Rough sex defence began during second interview

Jesse Kempson in court during the trial. | Photo: ITV

After the search warrant and new CCTV footage emerged, Kempson was called back in for police interview and his story completely changed.

After previously saying he didn’t see Grace after 8pm and couldn’t remember beyond that, he could now recall kissing with Grace and going to various bars before going to his hotel room with her.

Kempson said that Grace mentioned the book Fifty Shades of Grey to him and wanted “violent sex” so he began to choke her. He again denied killing her.


Investigating officers called Kempson a “narcissist”

Detective Inspector Scott Beard at Auckland City Police.

During Jesse Kempson’s second interview with police, he claimed to have woken up in the shower of his hotel room, assuming Grace had left, and saw her lying on the floor with blood coming from her nose.

He said he screamed and panicked, which led to the chain of events that saw him dispose of her body in the Ranges. He also claimed to dial the number for emergency services but ‘didn’t hit the button’.

Speaking on the documentary, investigators said his second interview was a “total contradiction” from a “narcissist” and “sociopath”.


Grace Millane’s case changed the law

Tributes poured in for Grace Millane. | Photo: Facebook

Following on from the trial and verdict, the rough sex defence was banned in England and Wales as part of a new domestic abuse legislation in 2020.

Though it happened in the most cruel and horrendous of circumstances, Grace would unknowingly go on to change the world for so many victims and families.


New statement from Grace’s family

The Millane family. | Photo: New Zealand Police

Grace’s family did not appear on the documentary, but provided ITV with a detailed statement about their “adventurous” daughter.

The statement reads: “Grace was a kind, fun-loving adventurous daughter, sister, cousin and friend with her whole life ahead of her. She was enjoying the first of what would have been a lifetime of adventures before her life was cruelly and brutally cut short.

“Her sense of fun, adventure, her love of travel and exploring along with her ability to light up any room she walked into with her generosity of spirit are the memories we as her family cherish and how we will remember her. We are so pleased that the government are stopping rough sex being used as a defence, it needs to be called what it really is, and that is murder.

“It felt like Grace was on trial, yet unable to defend herself. Hopefully no other family will have to go through this, and men will stop using this defence as an excuse to kill women, knowing they can get a lesser sentence. Grace is and always will be our sunshine.”


You can watch the documentary on demand on ITV Hub here.

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