Warning: Sexual violence content
The man who murdered Grace Millane has failed to have his convictions and sentences for sexual assaults on two other women overturned.
Jesse Shane Kempson was found guilty of murdering Millane, a British tourist visiting New Zealand who he met on Tinder, by a High Court jury in November 2019.
He was later found guilty at two judge-alone trials in late 2020 for offending against two more women, who have permanent name suppression.
In October 2020, Kempson was convicted on eight charges relating to offending against his former partner including sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, threatening to kill, assault with a weapon and male assaults female.
In November 2020, he was convicted on one charge of sexually violating a woman, a British tourist like Millane, in an unrelated incident.
“You have no reason to convict me,” Kempson yelled at trial judge Justice Geoffrey Venning from the dock at the conclusion of his third trial.
“I can’t wait for the Court of Appeal to overturn you, mate. You’re full of s***.”
For both sets of the offending, he received total sentence of 11 years’ imprisonment. This was ordered to be served concurrently with the life sentence he received for murdering Millane, whose body was found in a shallow grave in the Waitākere bush.
The now 31-year-old Kempson appealed both his convictions and his sentences for the offending against the two other women and a Court of Appeal hearing was held last year.
Today, the judgment, with reasons by Justice David Gendall, was released.
He said after reviewing all of the submissions made by Kempson’s legal team and the Crown, the appeal was rejected.
“We find that neither of the individual sentences imposed contained any error, nor is the total cumulative sentence of 11 years’ imprisonment manifestly excessive,” Justice Gendall ruled.
“Both appeals against sentence are also dismissed.”
After Millane was murdered in December 2018, police closed in on Kempson as the prime suspect.
As detectives investigated him and searched their files, they found an earlier complaint by another woman, who had been in a relationship with him, and a corresponding protection order.
“I was Grace’s voice and I will be Grace’s voice,” she would later tell a court.
In today’s judgment, the Court of Appeal found Justice Timothy Brewer, who oversaw Kempson’s second trial for the offending against his partner, “did not err in his appraisal of the evidence” from the woman.
“Considering the totality of that evidence, we accept that on core matters in issue [the victim] was generally consistent. In doing so she gave a coherent narrative of a relationship with Mr Kempson that was emotionally, financially, and physically abusive and one that included low-level violence throughout.”
In a police interview played in court during the trial, the woman said her brief relationship with Kempson would often be punctuated with fights over money.
When he got angry, she explained, it was like Jekyll and Hyde and he would have a look of “pure evil” in his eyes.
“It was like a game to him,” she said. “He loved seeing me cry. He loved seeing me upset. He loved seeing me scared. He loved it because it was power and control for him.”
The third woman, English like Millane, was also interviewed by police about a violent Tinder rendezvous she had with Kempson.
She came forward after seeing Kempson’s identity publicised by international media as the man accused of killing Millane. She instantly recognised him as the man who had raped her in an Auckland motel and when presented with a photo ID montage - positively identified Kempson.
The two met and were drinking at a bar in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour and in Mont Eden that she described as awkward before driving to the Epsom motel where Kempson was living.
“I couldn’t just stay in the car,” she said at the trial of going inside with him. “I didn’t know where I was.”
Once inside, she said, he yelled at her after she rebuffed his advances - calling her “ungrateful” after he had treated her “like a princess” by paying for her food and drinks that night.
“I have never been shouted at like that before ever, by anyone,” she told the court. “I was really scared and upset.”
The woman said she tried to leave the motel but had left her bag, containing her keys, wallet and passport at the Mount Eden bar. Kempson refused to drive her back to the bar or home.
She tried calling the bar, her mother, and a friend, but the calls did not connect. She also sent a message to a friend who lived in Mount Eden and wrote: “Please tell me you’re still awake. Please, please, please.”
Kempson then raped her, she said, as she cried and tried to sleep fully clothed on the opposite side of the bed.
She never saw him again after the following morning, when he took her to retrieve her bag from a bar they had been to, then dropped her off in a supermarket carpark.
In today’s decision, Justice Gendall said: “This is not a case of reluctant or regretted consent, nor a case where consent was withdrawn partway through sexual activity ... Nothing in the evidence suggested an inference of consent on the part of [the victim], either reluctant or otherwise.”
The judgment said with her decision-making impaired somewhat through alcohol, she felt trapped and without options.
Kempson’s challenge of his conviction and sentence for murdering Millane have also earlier been rejected by the Court of Appeal, while a bid for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed in 2021.
He will be 45 years old when he is first eligible for release from prison in 2037.