Today the man who murdered Grace Millane was jailed for life. His sentence followed a high-profile investigation and trial after Grace went missing in Auckland during her OE in December 2018. The man who led the investigation, Detective Inspector Scott Beard, spoke to Anna Leask about the importance of finding Grace.
The day after Grace Millane was reported missing and Detective Inspector Scott Beard was called in to oversee the investigation, he had one order for his team.
"One thing you want is a photo of Grace up there," he told them.
"Because that's who we're working for. We're working to find Grace.
"She's not just a name - she's a person.
"So I want as many photos of her up on the wall as possible, so we know why we're here."
Beard is well known when it comes to serious crime; he's fronted some of the most high-profile cases in Auckland.
In early December 2018, he took on one of the biggest: The Millane investigation - known as Operation Gourami.
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Beard delivered updates to the media when Grace disappeared. He was at her father's side when he made an emotional appeal for information. He announced the worst possible news - that she was dead, murdered.
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But the case was never about him. Then, and now, it was always and only about Grace.
Rewind 443 days ago to December 5, 2018.
Just after lunchtime that day, Beard was alerted to Grace's disappearance and, with lines of inquiry leading nowhere, things were about to ramp up.
"We've just had a missing person report come in, it looks a bit dodgy," the crime squad detective senior sergeant told Beard.
"Okay, so then tell me about it," the boss replied.
Beard tells the Herald: "We get missing person complaints every day, and multiple times some days - so having a missing person complaint on file is nothing new.
"But it's when you look at the circumstances here, you know, a young English girl on an OE in New Zealand on her birthday ... the family hadn't been able to contact her.
"This is someone who's been contacting her family daily, if not multiple times a day, all the time.
"She's from a family that is so tight-knit and close - and every day she's in contact telling them what she's doing and suddenly she's out of contact.
"So, yeah, there were definitely red flags."
As the field crime manager for the Auckland City police district, Beard oversees all major incidents.
Initially the crime squad on duty will tend to whatever is happening and then as necessary, other police squads get assigned to investigate.
At 10pm on December 5 Beard's cellphone rang, he was updated and knew the case had to be escalated.
"Time is ticking, it's getting worse and worse," he recalls.
He left home early the next morning and walked up through the city past the backpackers where Grace was staying, just to get a feel for things.
He got to the office and gave his own boss an update. He said he was happy to take the case on because he wasn't going out of Auckland for Christmas so he'd be around for however long it took to find Grace.
He then assembled a team to work Operation Gourami.
"As a detective inspector, my role isn't to run an investigation on a daily basis," he explains.
"I assigned a detective senior sergeant, that was Greg Brand, to be the officer in charge. Then he appoints a second in charge and we start getting staff - we go across the district and we say 'right, what resource do we need, who do we need, what's going to be our key focus in the initial stages?''
"My role then is to basically sit at the top and oversee the investigation - make sure we're on the right track, make sure they've got the resources, because it was international, it was going to mean a lot of media, we already knew that, we'd already had some media questions from the UK.
"Having previously dealt with overseas victims and inquiries, I knew the media phase - and I'm going to call it the media circus - was going to roll in.
"It was really important that the investigation team and (Brand) focused solely on the investigation, whereas I come in over top and deal with all the other issues."
Beard first fronted that media circus in the early evening on December 6.
By then he'd briefed his bosses in the district and at Police National Headquarters. Both actions are standard in major investigations, there's a "no surprises" policy within the organisation so if something looks like it's going to escalate, the top brass are notified sooner rather than later.
"As every hour went by and we hadn't found her, and we weren't seeming to get any closer to finding her, the situation was getting worse," Beard said.
It became clear very soon that the CCTV phase of the investigation was going to be significant.
Operation Gourami staff started at the backpackers where there was footage of Grace leaving for the last time.
They fanned out across the CBD, collecting footage from various businesses and the council.
They would eventually track Grace to SkyCity where she met a man, then on to a number of bars drinking with him, and then to the CityLife building where he rented an apartment.
There were seven CCTV cameras in the CityLife building, which also houses a hotel of the same name.
At 9.40pm on Saturday 1 December Grace and the man were captured entering a lift and getting out on the floor of his apartment.
At 8am the next morning the man went back down on his own.
"We obviously needed to prove that Grace had not left that room," says Beard
"We had seven CCTV cameras and the way it operated, we could only watch one at a time. So to watch eight hours of footage, takes 56 hours.
"I wasn't going to let the staff fast forward on the CCTV - you cannot afford that, it had to be watched minute-by-minute, it was real time watching.
"As some of the team did that, others started trying to identify potential persons of interest."
Team members secured the apartment where the man lived, after Grace was last seen entering his floor with him.
They questioned the man she was with.
Beard said it was obvious by then he was connected. When he lied to police, Beard's confidence became certainty.
The man - who has name suppression - said he had bid farewell to Grace on Victoria Street.
But police had located CCTV showing the pair crossing Victoria Street together and were in the process of tracking her to his room - but not beyond.
On the Friday night, luminol testing was done in that room.
"It showed all the blood on the carpet and you think 'oh my God, what has he done?' - because it's a significant amount of glow.
"At that stage we were dealing with a homicide investigation."
The next day, the man Grace had met - on dating app Tinder - was charged with her murder.
He told police that she had died in his room after they'd engaged in rough sex, but it had gone wrong. He said that he'd purchased a suitcase, contorted her body into it, driven her to the Waitakere Ranges in a rented car and buried her in a shallow grave.
Events were moving quickly for the police - and each step of the way Beard tasked himself with keeping Grace's family updated.
Her father David had flown out to New Zealand soon after she was reported missing and he fronted media at a press conference on the Friday, flanked by Beard.
On Saturday he was told a man had been charged with murdering his youngest child and only daughter.
On Sunday he was told that his little girl's body had been recovered.
Beard would tell David, who relayed the news back to his wife Gillian in the UK. She could not travel because she had just had major surgery as part of treatment for cancer.
"As time went by the scenario, the situation, got worse and worse," said Beard.
Beard has four children - three sons and a daughter who is in her 20's, close to Grace in age.
Not only was it was his job to keep David in the loop, there was a feeling of parental, fatherly duty too.
Beard recalls his first meeting with David.
"The information that I was told was that Dad was coming over, that he was a successful businessman and that he was 'bringing the media with him'.
"Of course, my first thought was 'that's the last thing we need'. But that wasn't the case. I arranged for the family liaison officer Detective Toni Jordan to meet David at the airport and because I was concerned about what I'd been told, I thought 'right, ok, I need to meet him'.
"And, because I was overseeing the investigation, I needed him to see my face because I knew I'd be doing the media and he needs to meet me to understand.
"So he was brought from the airport back to my office and I was sort of explaining the investigation to him and he said to me 'I've just been on a plane for 30 hours, I've thought of every possible scenario'.
"It must have been horrendous when you're in that situation, because there's nothing you can do."
Beard said it broke his heart to see David so torn, but trying to be so brave for his family.
"As we know, Gillian [Millane] had cancer and she was undergoing chemotherapy. So you've got a man - a successful businessman at that - who, the love of his life is very unwell, his daughter is missing he's on the other side of the world where he has no friends, no family, no support.
"I have a daughter in her 20s and I could completely understand and empathise with how he was feeling - because I know how I would feel. Sometimes you have to put yourself into their shoes, because if you don't, you might just miss that connection.
"And as it was we got on really well."
In that first meeting Beard set the ground rules with David and promised him he'd do everything in his power to find Grace.
"I told David that I would be telling him everything before I told the media. My promise to him was that he would not hear anything without hearing it from me first.
"The condition I put on that was 'if you go talking to the media, I'll stop talking. Because we have a strategy here we have a plan, and we've got to stick to it'."
"And he was really good. And it worked really well. He was kept advised all the way through on everything that was happening - not necessarily the particular detail around some of the technology stuff, but yeah.
"Every day he'd come to my office, every day we had a chat, sometimes I went and saw him at the hotel. I just saw this really strong man, father figure, head of the family crumbling - and that's tough."
Beard isn't easily shaken. He's warm, affable and easy to chat to - but for the most part, he keeps it professional and his emotions don't show much.
When he talks about David though, the facade fades and you can see it in his eyes.
That's the face that was beamed around the world when Beard stood in front of the media and revealed that Grace's body had been found.
Police had tracked her killer's movements to within minutes of where she was concealed, and he had eventually helped pinpoint the exact location.
A press conference was scheduled for mid-afternoon, and then pushed back without reason.
But finally the news was delivered.
"It took longer to dig up the suitcase than what we anticipated," Beard explains.
"The media were being really good on this investigation - from my perspective - and they, particularly the New Zealand news media, need to have time to get things prepared for the six o'clock news.
"So I was trying to make sure that we could accommodate them and their requirements. But of course, I had to wait for the suitcase.
"Once the suitcase had been freed from the shallow grave, we had an x-ray machine there which indicated, and then the pathologist said 'yes, it's a female body'. Where we were my phone reception was not the best. So I managed to get in contact with the victim liaison detective and said to her 'can you ring David, we've found a body'.
"Within two minutes I went from one side of the (police) tent where Grace was, to standing in front of the media.
"Telling Dad . . . we had to make sure he knew, because as we knew everything in the media can be livestreamed, so it's instantaneous now."
After the press conference, Beard walked back into the cordon.
"I took a deep breath, and sighed. It was emotional, there's no doubt. It had also been a really intense three or four days, there hadn't been a lot of sleep, a lot of thought going into working with the family - it was just such a rapid investigation.
"I don't think I've worked on an investigation that's moved so fast and so quickly. The staff had done a fantastic job, they worked some long hours… It was painstaking, but you know what, they did a really good job because it was critical.
"And every day, dealing with Dad - a really strong guy, a father like I am, just crumbling in front of me, it's really tough…. So yeah, at the end your shoulders drop and you go whooooooooo…"
"Our whole aim from the start was to find Grace."
That night Beard went to David's hotel and spent time with him.
It was important to him to make sure the now-grieving father was looked after.
"His brother had come out and was supporting him, but that was part of my role - to look after the family, he said.
"It was so emotional . . . his wife's on the other side of the world with cancer, he's just been told we've found his daughter murdered… yeah, how do you react to that? You're numb, maybe you're expecting that at some stage but it still hurts."
When Beard got to his own home that night he had a shower and slept.
"I'm probably fortunate I tend to compartmentalise things," he says.
"So, like I never have trouble falling asleep. No matter how stressful the job is, within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow I'm asleep.
"I might wake up early, my mind starts racing and I think 'I must get up and do that'.
"We also had a lot more work to do - we were in the investigation phase but after we found Grace we moved to the prosecution phase, we still had work to do."
Beard travelled to the UK for Grace's funeral in January last year. He returned home to be told he had cancer.
"When I got back, I just had my yearly checkup - my cholesterol, my blood pressure since I turned 50 I was doing that and it includes a PSA check," he said.
A prostate-specific antigen check is a blood test used to screen for cancer.
"It came back a lot higher than it had been the year before so my GP told me to come back in six weeks to retest it, because sometimes you can get false positives. In six weeks it was a lot higher again.
"I'm thinking 'what's going on here'. I went to a urologist and arranged a biopsy which was under a general anaesthetic. About 10 days later they rang me and said, we've got the results you need to make an appointment in the next couple of days.
"Just with that information you think 'well, obviously there's not good news. And then your mind starts playing games… the connotations that the word cancer brings out."
Beard was given the stats - of the Kiwi men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, 98.4 per cent survive - and those who didn't had not picked it up as early as him.
"Right, I'm going to survive," he said to himself at the time.
"I remember probably the hardest thing was that my daughter knew (about the appointment) so ringing her after getting the news, that was hard… I got a bit teary."
Beard underwent surgery to remove his prostate and told the doctors that whatever happened, he needed to be in court by November 4 - the opening of the trial for Grace's murderer.
He was back at work before then. And he was there to support David and Gillian through the trauma of the trial.
The couple arrived in Auckland on Saturday, November 2. They got some sleep and met Beard and Jordan the next day.
A later meeting was held with the Crown prosecution team - led by Brian Dickey, Robin McCoubrey and Litia Tuiburelevu.
The group took David and Gillian through the entire case.
They watched every minute of the CCTV footage of Grace's last hours.
They saw images of the room where she was killed, intimate photos taken of her by her killer after she died, her grave, the suitcase.
Everything the jury heard - much of which was toned down in media coverage - the Millanes knew first.
Beard said the hardest part for them was watching their daughter get in the lift with the man who would kill her, just three hours before she should have rung in her 22rd birthday.
In the lift Millane is smiling and happy.
"That was the last time they saw their daughter alive," said Beard.
"Then he goes and buys a suitcase, takes the luggage trolley up to his room and comes down again - and as we know, by then Grace is in the suitcase.
"That was upsetting for the family, but we just wanted them to be prepared for the trial.
"And the court was packed with media and every time something happened some of them would turn and look at the family. I knew they'd be under huge pressure and we were just trying to prepare them and support them and get them through, you know, however long the trial was going to take."
David and Gillian were dignified throughout moments that must have been sickening and unbearable.
Only once did Gillian leave the room in tears, the evidence about Grace's last moments too much for her.
When the guilty verdict was read they kept their heads high, but they sobbed.
Beard, Brand, McKenzie and Jordan were also overwhelmed.
It was like the room had been holding its breath for three weeks, and then exhaled.
David and Gillian were bustled off to a private room. Beard scanned the courtroom, checking on his team.
"I thought we would get a minimum of a manslaughter conviction just because of the evidence. I had some people saying 'oh, you're not going to win this' and I thought 'hang on, you haven't heard all the evidence'.
"The jury heard all the evidence and they made a reasonably quick decision."
It took just five hours to find the man guilty of murder.
Beard clearly remembers the moment the word "guilty" rang out through court.
"Right at that moment (I felt) just relief…. Phew… we got there. But then I had David and Gillian sitting next to me, really emotional.
"It was the most emotional courtroom I've ever been in."
Less than half an hour after that verdict David and Gillian read a statement about Grace - their "sunshine".
"It was tough for them," said Beard, who stood alongside them as he had since the first day he met David.
That night the police, prosecutors and the MIllanes got together for a debrief.
The next day David and Gillian left New Zealand.
It's unlikely they will ever return here, but Beard will probably always be in touch with them.
He's in contact with them on a weekly basis and has no plans to cut that off just because their daughter's court file is closed.
They are not the only family Beard goes the extra mile for.
"It was interesting, throughout the investigation phase I had some flowers and cards sent from a couple of families of homicide victims which I dealt with, one was over 10 years before," he revealed.
"So, yeah, this wasn't a special effort just for this family.
"As police, we do have a victim focus and you know, the families are important - particularly because they are not going to get their loved one back.
"So, especially during the investigation and prosecution phase, it's important that our contact is there and that we're showing them the empathy."
Beard has been working as an investigator for more than 30 years.
"There was a huge sense of satisfaction, firstly in finding Grace because, you know, through the years there have been families who don't find their loved ones or don't have an answer as to why, or what happened.
"So that satisfaction of being able to give answers to this family and give Grace back to them was huge."
Beard remains uncomfortable with the spotlight turned on him.
"It has to be about Grace, this is about Grace," he says.
"I was doing my job. It's really important - this was never about Scott Beard. This was about finding Grace, and the New Zealand police running an investigation.
"I just worked - I'm a police officer. It could have been another detective inspector, it just so happened to be me. I was just the face of the police, that's part of my job… someone has to front the media, that's their role in the investigation."