Warning: The Grace Millane murder trial is hearing evidence of a graphic and sexual nature. Reader discretion is advised. The trial is taking place in open court and media are required to accurately report the evidence as it is presented.
The man accused of Grace Millane's murder strangled her and then took "trophy" photos of her body, prosecutors allege.
But the defence claims the 27-year-old "freaked out" after an accidental death during sex.
Yesterday, the High Court jury heard the closing arguments of Auckland's Crown solicitor Brian Dickey and the accused's chief legal counsel Ian Brookie.
Today marks the end of the third week of the trial, in which Dickey and his team alleged the accused strangled Millane to death in his CityLife hotel apartment in downtown Auckland on December 1 last year — the eve of her 22nd birthday.
During his closing address, Dickey said it was a misconception that the Crown have to prove the accused intended to kill Millane.
"That is wrong," he said. "That is one method, but it is not the only method."
Dickey told the jury they could convict the accused of murder if they found he displayed a reckless intent.
The prosecutor said this happened when the accused gripped Millane's throat for five to 10 minutes, strangling the life out of her.
He must have felt Millane's "limp and lifeless" body but decided to carry on, Dickey said.
"If that's not reckless murder in this country, ladies and gentlemen, then someone will have to explain to me what is."
After Millane was dead, Dickey said, the accused took several photographs of her naked body, recovered from his phone.
Dickey said the accused has "eroticised the death of British backpacker Grace Millane" because of his "morbid sexual interest".
"And he has memorialised it for himself ... The ultimate triumph for the defendant over Grace Millane. His trophy photographs."
Dickey also attacked the defence's narrative of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) gone wrong.
"This is not sex play, this is not restricted breath games," he said. "This is holding a person's neck or throat for an extended period of time, feeling their struggle, as she must have struggled for her life, and you carry on."
Instead of calling for an ambulance, the accused Googled "Waitakere Ranges" at 1.29am on December 2, Dickey said.
"He's trying to figure out a way of disposing of her body, that's his first response. Second response is then to look up 'hottest fire' — again to figure out how to dispose her body so that the world will never learn that he has killed this young woman."
In CCTV footage after Millane's death, Dickey said, the accused appeared to be "cool, calm and controlled".
Dickey said "he's trying to get away with it altogether" as he creates a "labyrinth of storytelling and lies".
Millane didn't ask to be killed, he concluded.
"You can't consent to your own murder."
But Ian Brookie, the accused's chief defence lawyer, said Millane's was an "accidental death that took place during sexual activity".
When confronted with Millane's lifeless body, Brookie said his client "freaked out".
"He reacted badly," he said. "He acted selfishly. Once committed to that course he had to follow it through, he had to make it look like everything was fine.
"He lied and tried to cover it up, there's no dispute about that."
The accused's Tinder date on December 2, hours after Millane had died, was evidence of an "everything's fine, you carry on" attitude.
But it also showed a man who was panicking, Brookie said.
"It's crazy how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their life," the accused told his date at a Ponsonby bar.
He was recalling a "friend" who was convicted of manslaughter for an erotic asphyxiation death.
Brookie said this was the first admission about what happened in the hotel room.
The accused's next confession was to police on December 8 when he told police, in a "disorganised download of information", about what happened to Millane.
"He chose to, not only did he choose to, he assisted the police in finding [Millane's body]."
At the core of his explanation, Brookie said, was why the accused put his hands around Millane's neck.
She had raised the topic of erotic asphyxiation and had practised it with a former sexual partner, the accused claimed.
"The only way he could've known that, because we know it's true from the evidence, is if she'd done exactly what he said," Brookie told the jury.
"The defence says to you that is a critical piece of evidence."
CCTV footage of Millane and the accused on the night of December 1 also showed signs of affection, Brookie said.
"They were getting on like a house on fire," he said. "You can see that they're into each other and that it's mutual."
The medical evidence was inconclusive, Brookie said, adding the pathology experts couldn't give a firm time frame for how long it takes for manual strangulation to lead to death.
The accused's apartment also showed no evidence of any disturbance or fight, he told the jury.
"At first blush it may have looked like there was quite a lot of blood," Brookie said of the luminol tests that showed illuminated circles on the hotel room floor.
But this was consistent with a clean-up smear.
The accused admitted cleaning up blood after waking on the morning of December 2 to find Millane lying on the floor — between the fridge and the bed — with blood coming from her nose.
Dianne Crenfeldt, an expert forensic scientist, couldn't be certain how much blood there was originally was.
Brookie said there was also no evidence to resolve the issue about Millane's time of death.
All the Crown could point towards, Brookie said, were "two random Google searches".
"Where's the searching about how to create a fictional defence of [death by] asphyxiation during sex?"
He also told the jury there was no evidence the explicit photos of Millane on the accused's phone were taken when she was dead.
The Crown's suggestion of a motive to take explicit photos of dead people was "just implausible" and "frankly ridiculous", he said.
He urged the jurors that if they had any doubts that they just couldn't dismiss then they must find the accused not guilty of murder.
Justice Simon Moore will provide his summary of the case and directions to the jury this morning before they begin deliberating.