Police investigating the murder of British tourist Grace Millane have cordoned off what appears to be a crime scene along a section of Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges .

Two police officers are guarding the scene less than a kilometre past the Waitakere Dam, while another was donning a white face mask and forensic examination outfit.

There are more than five unmarked and marked police cars at the scene and a large tent and van set up on the site. Staff in overalls have been seen removing bagged items from the bush.

Police on the scene at Scenic Drive in the Waitakere ranges. Photo / Doug Sherring
Police on the scene at Scenic Drive in the Waitakere ranges. Photo / Doug Sherring

A week-long search for the 22-year-old backpacker from Essex took a tragic turn yesterday when Auckland police said during a press conference they believed she had been murdered.

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While her body has not yet been found a 26-year-old man has been charged with her murder and is due to Auckland District Court tomorrow.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard a full scene examination is underway in a bush area on Scenic Drive.

"This is a methodical and slow process and is expected to take all day."

"At this stage we are not able to confirm whether Grace has been located at this site."

Beard said there will be a full road closure of Scenic Dr between the intersection of Mountain Rd/Scenic Dr and the Waitakere Reservoir Carpark, from 3pm until 7pm tonight. Residents will however be given access.

Earlier today Millane's brother Declan thanked New Zealanders for their thoughts and prayers.

A car seized in relation to Millane's disappearance, meanwhile, appears to be the key piece of evidence in her death, a former police inspector says.

Retired Bay of Plenty District crime manager and Detective Inspector Graham Bell said the car was likely used to transport Millane's body.

On Saturday police confirmed they were treating their investigation as a homicide inquiry. Pictured is Detective Inspector Scott Beard at Friday's press conference. Photo / Doug Sherring
On Saturday police confirmed they were treating their investigation as a homicide inquiry. Pictured is Detective Inspector Scott Beard at Friday's press conference. Photo / Doug Sherring

The police priority would be tracking the vehicle's movements with GPS or using cellphone towers - which was possible even if the mobile phones of those in it were switched off, he revealed.

Police said they were determined to return Millane to her family, who had earlier spread word across the world of the talented artist and university graduate's disappearance when her daily social media contact stopped the night before her 22nd birthday last Sunday.

Millane's father David, a millionaire property developer, then flew to New Zealand early on Friday.

The much-loved daughter and sister arrived in New Zealand on November 20, as part of a year-long, worldwide overseas experience that began earlier this year in South America, he told journalists.

Fighting back tears, he spoke to media about the "lovely, outgoing, fun-loving, family-orientated daughter" who had been so looking forward to going to New Zealand and had "bombarded us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures" since arriving.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard said during the conference officers had found the 26-year-old man at a central Auckland address at 3pm on Friday, and interviews were still taking place.

Police have also released photos of a necklace and pink Casio Baby-G watch Millane was thought to be wearing when she disappeared, and said her passport was also missing.

Her other belongings had remained this week at Base Backpackers, where she had been booked in to stay until today.

CCTV footage captured Millane leaving Andy's Burgers & Bar, on the first level of Sky City, at 7.15pm last Saturday, December 1.

At 9.41pm Millane and the 26-year-old man taken in by police today were seen on CCTV entering CityLife Hotel, which has entrances on both Queen and Durham Sts.

Asked why police were now treating Millane's disappearance as a murder, Beard said it was a combination of factors.

"The evidence we have located so far, our scene examination, from the CCTV footage we have and our investigation has determined that Grace is no longer alive and this is a murder investigation."

Police had "no reason or understanding what the motive was", he said.