A packed courtroom has listened to a detailed timeline of events before and after Grace Millane's death, which included the British backpacker kissing her alleged killer - and his Google searches for the Waitakere Ranges where the young woman's body was found.

There weren't enough seats for the dozens of members of the public who poured into courtroom 11 of the High Court at Auckland this morning – leaving several standing – to watch the first day of evidence in the trial.

Millane, a university graduate on her OE and travelling around New Zealand, vanished the day before her 22nd birthday last year.

CCTV cameras showed her alive on December 1 entering Auckland's CityLife Hotel with a man – the same 27-year-old man now accused of killing her.

Advertisement
British backpacker Grace Millane was visiting New Zealand as part of her OE.
British backpacker Grace Millane was visiting New Zealand as part of her OE.

Her body was later found in a section of bush just 10m off Scenic Drive in West Auckland's Waitakere Ranges on December 9.

Shallow grave - cop describes site where Grace Millane's body found

1pm

Detective Evan Ingley was the officer in charge of the scene where Millane's body was found in the Waitakere Ranges.

He has spoken to the court about the place her remains were discovered - in a suitcase buried in a shallow grave.

Police had data showing the accused's phone had been in the Scenic Drive area in West Auckland and Ingley was sent there to investigate.

"My task was to drive around Scenic Drive and just check for any obvious areas that a car could have parked," he said.

He was advised polling data taken from the accused's phone had shown the device had been near 693 Scenic Drive.

Ingley explained the site had a gravel area "somewhere you could park up and rest".

Advertisement

The spot was "reasonably large".

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, the officer in charge of the investigation, and other police arrived at the scene.

"Within minutes the search and rescue team arrived," Ingley told the court.

Ingley was made the officer in charge of the scene and took control from that point.

After speaking to the search and rescue co-ordinator he ascertained who was the best person to "track into the bush".

A constable was chosen and told he was "the only person to go in".

"If you identify anything of interest you're to take photographs, I'm not going in with you, I don't want to contaminate the scene," Ingley said.

"At that point I wasn't sure where Grace might be, I wasn't sure what evidence might be on the ground."

Ingley said there was an "obvious" entry point to the bush area and the constable was deployed in that way.

The area was "slightly trampled".

"He came back, showed me some photographs and said there was… an area of bush that had been disturbed," Ingley relayed.

"To me it looked like the bush had been broken… it was quite clear it was different from the other areas of bush.

"I closed down the entire scene."

Ingley asked the constable to check if there was any other point of disturbance in the area.

"After reconnaissance, checking round, he couldn't find anywhere else where someone could have gone in," Ingley recalled.

"I asked everyone who didn't need to be there to leave."

Scene guards were put in place to ensure no one could enter the area where police believed Millane's body may be.

"I told them nobody was to enter the scene at all… if someone tried they could be arrested immediately," Ingley explained.

A police photographer and forensic scientists were called, a standard procedure when a potential serious crime scene is identified.

Ingley described how officers suited up to go into the "hot zone" - the specific area where they believed Millane was.

All staff had to wear clean overalls, gloves and other gear.

A table was set up there for processing potential evidence.

A "warm zone" was then set up for staff to change in and out of clean gear.

And a "cold zone" was established - mainly for staff meetings and breaks.

Ingley then went into the hot zone with a police photographer and forensic specialists.

"We walked into the scene, took photographs and made an assessment of what we were actually looking at," he told the court.

He said Millane's body was buried in a shallow grave about 10-15m from the carpark.

There were branches that appeared to have been "broken off" and "piled on" an area "haphazardly".

He could see small areas where the clay on the ground had been overturned.
Ingley soon identified a "gravesite".

Trial halted as accused takes ill

12.19pm

The trial was halted briefly as the accused may have fallen ill and has left the courtroom under escort from two security guards.

One of his lawyers, Ron Mansfield, told Justice Simon Moore that he would make inquiries to see what was happening with his client.

He returned to the courtroom looking physically uncomfortable. But the trial will continue.

Grace Millane's father reveals her last message home

Grace Millane's father David has given evidence at the trial for his daughter's alleged killer.

His evidence was read by Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey.

David Millane was present in court with his wife Gillian.

As his statement was read Gillian Millane was audibly emotional.

In his statement David Millane said his daughter was in contact at least once a day during her travels but that contact ceased on December 1 - a day before her 22nd birthday.

He said his daughter and her two brothers were also in constant contact via various social media and messaging apps.

The last message she sent her family was of a Christmas tree at SkyCity on December 1.

Millane had graduated from the University of Lincoln with an advertising and marketing degree soon before she went on a year-long solo OE.

Her father said she got on with people old and young and was an engaging young woman.

"She was savvy about people in general and she was not overly trusting of people, but not overly shy."

He said she had two serious boyfriends, amicably breaking up with the second before she left on her trip.

"She was meticulous about her planning… she was going to be away for a year with a plan to be back in the UK in June 2019 where we had a wedding in the family," David Millane's statement said.

She travelled to South America - Chile, Patagonia and Peru - to start.

"We heard from Grace virtually every day… she enjoyed sharing her adventures with us," her father said.

She arrived in Auckland on November 20 and touched base with her family, speaking to her mother about the backpackers where she was staying and sharing that she had purchased a gift for her brother's young daughter.

The contact with her family when she got to her new location was "indicative" of her nature - responsible and communicative with her family.

"She was in good spirits," her father said.

"I did not know specifically Grace was dating online… I don't believe children tell their parents everything, and nor should they, necessarily."

'Put simply this was an accident, it was not murder,' defence says

The accused's lawyer Ian Brookie told the jury Millane died not from a murder but "a perfectly ordinary, casual sexual encounter between a young couple".

"Ms Millane died as a result of what they consensually engaged in," Brookie said during his opening statement.

"An act designed to enhance their sexual pleasure that went wrong and she died as a result."

Defence lawyer Ian Brookie.
Defence lawyer Ian Brookie.

Brookie said the events which led to the young British woman's death came with her "knowledge, encouragement and only with the goal of sexual pleasure".

"The defence is not doing this in anyway to suggest that Ms Millane is to blame, she is not to blame," the defence lawyer said.

While his client's actions may have caused Millane's death, Brookie said the accused was also not to blame, "although he may blame himself".

"Put simply this was an accident, it was not murder."

What the accused did after Millane died may have been motivated by fear or that he would not be believed, Brookie said.

"You may not well like the actions that [the accused] took and that's understandable," he said, but added it was not likely to inform the jury about what the defendant was trying to do and also thinking when Millane died.

"The cause of death here is not an issue in general terms," Brookie said.

But the accused in "no way intended to cause any harm to her", the barrister added.

"It's just not as simple as what the Crown is saying to you.

"Is there really only one explanation for what is happening or is there another way of looking at it?"

As Brookie made his statement to the jury the accused started to cry.

He used a tissue to wipe his eyes, sniffed and blew his nose as his lawyer outlined Millane's final night, saying they were "both keen to give it a go - and they did".

The accused also clenched his jaw as Brookie spoke of his sexual encounter with Millane before she died.

As Brookie said the accused "may blame himself" but was "not to blame" he became visibly and audibly more emotional, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.

He also lowered his head to shield his face from the media and public gallery.

The accused's defence team includes well-known Auckland lawyer Ron Mansfield and junior barrister Claire Farquhar.

Their client will continue to have interim name suppression throughout the trial – the reasons for which are also suppressed and cannot be reported by media.

Crown provides timeline of Millane's death

Prosecutor Robin McCoubrey earlier opened the case for the Crown today and said much of what the jurors may already know about Millane's disappearance is not disputed.

"What is in dispute is how she died," he told the seven women and five men of the jury, who were selected on Monday.

Crown prosecutors Brian Dickey and Robin McCoubrey. Photo / Michael Craig
Crown prosecutors Brian Dickey and Robin McCoubrey. Photo / Michael Craig

Most of the events leading up to Millane going missing were captured by CCTV, McCoubrey said.

The cameras showed her and the accused being "plainly comfortable, plainly enjoying themselves" after earlier meeting on the internet dating app Tinder, he said.

The footage also showed the two of them kissing before entering the accused's apartment at about 9.40pm on December 1.

"But of course it's what happened inside the room that counts," McCoubrey said.

"Grace can't tell us."

McCoubrey, who was once a London barrister, says the accused's version of events is a fabrication.

The alleged killer had given a police interview on December 8 last year, detailing his version of events.

Reading a section of the transcribed interview to the court, McCoubrey said the accused claimed he and Millane had rough sex in the hotel room before he passed out in the shower.

"I crawled back into bed … I thought Grace had left," the accused told police during the interview.

When he woke, he said, Grace was "lying on the floor, I saw she had blood coming from her nose".

McCoubrey told the jury a pathologist will give evidence later in the trial and testify that Millane died from sustained pressure to the neck.

Her body also showed bruising to her chest and upper arms, the prosecutor said.

McCoubrey told the jury that the accused made several Google searches in the early hours of December 2.

These included searches for the Waitakere Ranges and for "hottest fire" at 1.35am.

"It's plain that Ms Millane is dead at this point," McCoubrey said.

"He is trying to find a place to hide her body … he is trying to find a means of disposing of her body.

"There can be no reason for making those searches if Ms Millane was alive, unless there was a plan to kill her."

At 1.41am the accused then watched some porn, McCoubrey said, and also took several intimate photos of Millane's body.

Grace Millane's parents David and Gillian arrive at court today, accompanied by Detective Inspector Scott Beard, left.
Grace Millane's parents David and Gillian arrive at court today, accompanied by Detective Inspector Scott Beard, left.

McCoubrey said the alleged killer would later buy several cleaning products, including hiring a Rug Doctor machine to clean the carpet and "remove the blood found in his room".

"Only two people know what happened in that room," McCoubrey said.

"One of them can't tell us and the other one hasn't told the truth about what happened."

A suitcase was also bought from a downtown Auckland Warehouse by the accused, McCoubrey said, before Millane's body was contorted to fit inside.

After hiring a rental car, her body was then transported and buried in a shallow grave in the Waitakere Ranges.

The accused, McCoubrey said, also met another Tinder date while Millane's body was still in the hotel room.

The court heard the accused recalled to his date a story of a man who was imprisoned for manslaughter after he was having "kinky or rough sex but that it all went wrong".

McCoubrey said the woman, who will give evidence later in the trial, recalled the accused being calm and the Crown believed the alleged killer may have been "testing out a version of events that he may later have to rely on later".

During the opening address, the accused killer – dressed in a white shirt and blue suit – sat silently in the dock and at times looked at those in the public gallery.

The prosecution of the accused is being led by Auckland's Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey, who is also assisted by a third Crown lawyer, Litia Tuiburelevu.

Judge's warning to jury

When the day's proceeding began, Justice Simon Moore reminded the jury of the importance of not talking to anyone outside their number and not allowing themselves to be drawn into external discussions.

"This is a court of law, not a court of morals … The problem with letting emotion intrude is that it impairs judgment and it is your judgment that is essential," Justice Moore said.
He also said there was an "absolute prohibition" on making any personal inquiries on the internet or social media about the case.

There are more than 20 journalists, photographers and television camera operators in the courtroom to cover the case for local and international media.

The trial, which is expected to last four to five weeks, continues.