One of the last people to see Grace Millane alive has spoken to the Herald exclusively about the young British backpacker's unfinished plans to explore the South Island.

The police homicide inquiry into Millane's disappearance came to a head yesterday when authorities recovered Grace's body from bush in the Waitakere Ranges.

Now, the man accused of murdering the 22-year-old has appeared in Auckland District Court today, where Judge Thomas told Millane's family, "all of us hope justice for Grace is fair, swift and ultimately brings you some peace".

"Your grief must be desperate".

Advertisement

English expat Jack Cotton said he was staying in Base Backpackers in downtown Auckland when Grace first checked in on November 29.

He and another backpacker had noticed Millane sitting alone and in the spirit of backpacking invited her to have a drink with them, he told the Herald.

"Myself and another guy were having a cigarette in the smoking area. She was kind of on her own so we just said hello and invited her to our table."

There a group of about six people, including Millane, chatted about their travels and where they planned to go. Millane mentioned she was looking forward to celebrating her 22nd birthday on December 2.

The two English expats found common ground in their birth country. She told him she was from Essex and he told her he was from Nottingham.

Police are continuing work at the Waitakere Ranges today. Yesterday at 4pm they found what they believed to be the body of Grace Millane. Photo / Doug Sherring
Police are continuing work at the Waitakere Ranges today. Yesterday at 4pm they found what they believed to be the body of Grace Millane. Photo / Doug Sherring

The group drank with Millane before Cotton and a couple of others went on a pub crawl.

"We left and that is the last time I saw her which was about 8pm on the Thursday."

Millane had told him she was staying in Auckland for a short time before heading to the South Island to continue her travels, Cotton said.

He recalled Millane being a "very nice girl" who was quiet initially "but that was probably because she was on her own".

"She seemed like a genuinely nice, normal girl. It's a shame because its such a rarity for this kind of thing to happen."

Millane's death was so odd given how safe Auckland felt at any time of the day, Cotton said.

"I don't think it should deter people from travelling alone or going to different countries or exploring. It's some of the best things you will ever do and the best memories you will create.

A 26-year-old man has appeared in Auckland District Court today charged with Millane's murder.

The Herald has viewed court documents that state who the man is, what he is alleged to have done and where he is from.

He was declined suppression but indicated he will appeal so suppression has been granted for 21 days.

But the Herald can reveal that the man is alleged to have murdered Millane between December 1 and 2.

The man is listed as living on Queen St - the same address as CityLife Hotel where Millane was last seen alive.

His occupation is not listed.

There has been speculation the pair met on a dating app such as Tinder, but police have refused to confirm how they met.

Police released photos of a 2016 red Toyota Corolla hatchback. Police wanted to hear from anyone who saw the vehicle in West Auckland between 6am and 9.30am on December 3.
Police released photos of a 2016 red Toyota Corolla hatchback. Police wanted to hear from anyone who saw the vehicle in West Auckland between 6am and 9.30am on December 3.

Millane's body was found in a section of bush just 10m off Scenic Drive in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges yesterday.

Flowers had been left at the scene this morning and several vigils are being planned across city centres to pay tribute.

The Essex woman, who recently graduated from university, came to New Zealand as part of a year-long solo OE.

She arrived in Auckland just days before she was killed.

Millane was last seen on CCTV on Saturday, December 1 entering CityLife Hotel with a 26-year-old man.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard yesterday released two photos of a 2016 red Toyota
Corolla hatchback linked to Millane's death.

The car was hired from a central Auckland rental company just before lunchtime last Sunday and was later found in Taupo.

The investigation team were now calling on anyone who saw the vehicle in the West Auckland area between 6am and 9.30am last Monday, December 3, to contact them.

The hunt for Grace

October-November 2018

Grace Millane embarks on a year-long solo OE, starting in South America at the end of October, before she arrives in New Zealand on November 20.

She travels around the upper North Island, including Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga.

Thursday, November 29

Grace arrives in Auckland and checks into the Base Backpackers Hostel.

Originally reported as Friday, November 30.

Saturday, December 1

Grace makes contact with her family - the last time they will hear from her after daily messages back and forth.

Grace is captured on CCTV leaving Andy's Burgers & Bar, on the first level of SkyCity, at 7.15pm.

Later, at 9.41pm, Grace is captured again on CCTV, entering the CityLife Hotel on Queen St with a man.

Sunday, December 2

Family become concerned after Grace doesn't respond to messages wishing her a happy 22nd birthday.

Wednesday, December 5

A missing person's report is filed with police.

Friday, December 7

Grace's father David Millane arrives in New Zealand.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard says police have "grave fears" for her safety.

Saturday, December 8

Just after 3pm, police take in to custody the man, 26, Grace was with at the hotel and find a "vehicle of interest".

At 5pm, Beard announces the investigation is now a homicide inquiry.

Sunday, December 9

A body believed to be Grace is found in the Waitakere Ranges.