Missing backpacker Grace Millane: From disappearance to murder charge

Fears for Grace Millane were sparked when she didn't contact family for five days.
SuppliedFears for Grace Millane were sparked when she didn’t contact family for five days.

Not seen since the night before her 22nd birthday, police revealed on Saturday they were to charge the 26-year-old man she was last known to be with, with her murder

In the space of four days, the focus has shifted from finding the advertising graduate and artist alive, to finding her body.

But eight days on from her disappearance, the same question remains – where is Grace Millane?

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The advertising graduate was on a year-long OE when she went missing and it was the first time she had travelled abroad alone.
SUPPLIEDThe advertising graduate was on a year-long OE when she went missing and it was the first time she had travelled abroad alone.

WHAT DO WE KNOW?

The last confirmed sighting of Millane was at 9.41pm at the CityLife Hotel, in Queen St, in Auckland’s CBD.

She was last seen there with the man now being held on suspicion of her murder.

Hours earlier, an image of her was captured on CCTV at SkyCity where it is believed the pair met.

How they met and how long they had known each other remains unknown, and detectives leading the investigation have refused to speculate when asked if the pair met through dating app Tinder.

Grace Millane was captured on CCTV footage at Sky City in Auckland on December 1, wearing a black dress and white shoes
NZ POLICEGrace Millane was captured on CCTV footage at Sky City in Auckland on December 1, wearing a black dress and white shoes

SEARCH SPARKED

The search for Millane was sparked by her parents who became concerned she hadn’t been in contact with them since December 1. 

This was unusual as she kept in touch with them and other family members daily through the messaging service WhatsApp.

The family were especially worried as she hadn’t responded to messages they sent to mark her birthday on December 2.

Checks at the Base Backpacker hostel, on Queen St, where she was staying revealed she hadn’t returned there after her Saturday night out.

An appeal for sightings of Millane was made by Auckland City Police on December 4, who issued a photograph of her wearing a black baseball cap.

More then 18,000 kilometres away in her home town of Wickford, Essex, friends and family frantically began spreading word of her disappearance.

Her brothers Michael and Declan Millane, along with thousands of others, took to social media, imploring people at home and abroad to help find her.

Grace Millane was last spotted entering the CityLife hotel in Auckland's CBD with a man on December 1.
AMANDA SAXTON/STUFFGrace Millane was last spotted entering the CityLife hotel in Auckland’s CBD with a man on December 1.

‘NO FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED’

Meanwhile, in Auckland, police initially said there was “no evidence of foul play” as the search for Millane continued.

They had spoken to roommates at the Base hostel, where most of her belongings remained. 

But concerns for her continued as she hadn’t updated her social media accounts for days.

The radio silence from her was “out of character”, her brother Declan said, as she had “bombarded” family with photos of her trip so far, which had included travelling to Cape Reinga with friends in the days before she disappeared.

Officers were checking CCTV footage to pinpoint her movements from the time she arrived in the Auckland on Friday, November 30 to the time she was last seen a day later.

The longer she was missing, the “more concerning” it was, police said, but Detective Scott Beard, who is leading the investigation, maintained they were keeping an open mind about where she was.

STUFFDavid Millane, the father of missing backpacker Grace Millane, says his daughter has “never been out of contact for this amount of time”.

DAD JOINS THE SEARCH

But that wasn’t assurance enough for Grace’s father, David Millane, who flew from London to help with the search efforts. 

He arrived in Auckland on Friday where he tearfully appealed for information “no matter how small” that might help find her.

“I would just like to take this opportunity to appeal to anybody who has seen, spoken to, or come into contact with Grace over the last few days, to come forward with any detail, no matter how small, and contact the investigation team,” he said.

It was at this point that police revealed they held “grave fears for her safety” and said for the first time they had spoken to a “person of interest” – the man Millane was last seen with.

Various sightings of Millane wearing either a black top, blue jeans and red sneakers, or a black dress with white shoes were reported to family and police in the hours that followed.

On social media, one woman claimed to have seen her at a Countdown supermarket, while others believed they saw someone matching her description hitchhiking on the southern motorway. 

None of those sightings were confirmed by police and the focus of the investigation remained centred, as it still does, around the CityLife Hotel.

That focus intensified on Saturday when police said searches of an apartment there, along with CCTV footage, gathered evidence “Grace is no longer alive”, Beard said. 

Grace Millane had been in New Zealand for about two weeks.
SuppliedGrace Millane had been in New Zealand for about two weeks.

A “vehicle of interest” was seized and the man previously spoken to by police was taken into custody as part of the case, now being treated as a murder investigation.

Her family is said to be “devastated” by the latest developments and there has been an outpouring of support for them on social media by Kiwis apologising that her trip of a lifetime ended in tragedy.

Millane’s story has gripped media across the world and united people thousands of mile apart.

The case has sparked every emotion from one of hope in the early stages of the investigation to now one of sorrow and anger.

The details of the case have changed dramatically over the course of the past week but the focus of the investigation remains the same – finding Grace Millane is the priority. 

Stuff