Warning: Contains graphic and sexual content.
The man accused of murdering Grace Millane told a Tinder date just hours after the backpacker died “there are a lot of bodies going missing in the Waitākeres”, a court has heard.
He also provided a false alibi to police and when confronted with CCTV images discrediting his story he asked a cop “have I been arrested for something I didn’t do?” The High Court jury spent yesterday watching the accused’s interview with police – which featured several lies about his whereabouts the night Millane died.
They also watched CCTV footage and listened to evidence about what the 27-year-old accused did in the hours and days after the British tourist died from “pressure to her neck”. Crown prosecutors allege that on the night of December 1 last year – the eve of Millane’s 22nd birthday – the accused strangled her to death in his CityLife hotel apartment.
He then buried Millane’s body in Auckland’s Waitākere Ranges.
The somewhat notorious hills in the city’s west were mentioned by the accused during a Tinder date at a Ponsonby bar during the afternoon of December 2 – just hours after Millane died. The accused’s date recalled her rendezvous with the alleged murderer for the Auckland court yesterday.
She said the accused mentioned all his mates were police officers and that he was “trying to find a really large duffel bag”. He then began regaling a story about a man who accidentally killed a woman during rough sex and was later convicted of manslaughter, the woman said.
“It’s crazy how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their life,” the accused allegedly told her.
The accused, the court has heard, claims Millane died as a result of sexual misadventure between the pair. His Tinder date said the accused appeared “very intense” when telling the story but also “seemed to have empathy with this man”.
He then mentioned police were “having a really tough time out in the Waitākeres”, she said. “There are a lot of bodies going missing in the Waitākeres,” the accused supposedly said.
The alleged killer also told her police dogs could only smell bodies if they were buried four feet or less underground, she told the court. “I thought it was an unusual thing to say on a date but people say strange things on dates,” the woman said.
CCTV footage of the accused’s movements before the date were also played to the court. At 8am on December 2, he is seen leaving his apartment and walking to The Warehouse on Elliot St in central Auckland.
He buys a large suitcase there and later visits a nearby supermarket where he buys several items, including Janola power cleaner, gloves, and a packet of gum. Later that morning he rents a small red car for 24 hours. After his Ponsonby date, CCTV shows him preparing to dispose of Millane’s body.
At about 9.27pm he is seen pushing a luggage trolley with two large suitcases and a black sports bag from his room to the rental car. Millane’s parents seated in the back of the courtroom, David and Gillian Millane, were audibly upset as they saw the suitcase containing their daughter’s body being moved.
After leaving the car in a carpark overnight, the accused begins his journey to Scenic Drive in the Waitākere Ranges at 6.14am on December 3. However, he stops at an ITM hardware store on the way and buys a red shovel. By 9.30am the accused returns to CityLife – CCTV shows he is barefoot.
Later on December 3, the accused visits and returns to a dry-cleaner’s and drives to another Warehouse at the St Lukes shopping centre where he buys a second large suitcase. While in St Lukes, he makes the short drive to Washworld, a self-service vehicle wash station where he spends about 15 minutes cleaning the rental car.
CCTV shows him also calmly leaving the red shovel leaning against a wall before driving away. By December 5 the accused is considered a person of interest and is contacted by police.
Later that day, however, he can be seen on CCTV walking into Albert Park in central Auckland carrying a sports bag. He removes some items from his bag and dumps them in a trash bin. The next day – December 6 – police sit him down and conduct a formal video interview.
This interview, by Detective Ewen Settle, has also been played to the jury. He asked the accused for a voluntary DNA sample. “Yep, 100 per cent, I haven’t done anything wrong,” the accused replied.
Settle said: “It’s possible that someone has killed her … We don’t know if she’s been murdered or not, we don’t know yet, she could be found, but she could be dead. “And it could be that you’ve done it.” Settle then briefly left the room.
The accused, however, quickly knocked on the closed door and asked: “I just wanted to ask a question, have I been arrested for something I didn’t do?” After returning, the detective said: “We’ve reached a point where we need to advise you of your rights.”
After doing so, Settle then slid a CCTV image across the table.
“Is that you?” he said, pointing at the accused in the image. “Yes,” the alleged killer said.
“That picture is in your hotel … That’s on Sunday morning [December 2] at eight o’clock,” Settle said. “I’m sure that was 10 o’clock, I’m still sure of it,” the accused replied. A long pause followed before the accused interrupted the silence and stares. “Is there something you want to ask?”
Settle replied: “That’s you walking in with a suitcase at 8.14 am.” The pair continued their exchange before the accused said: “If you’re assuming that I’ve used that suitcase for something, then I’ve still got it and you can have it.”
The detective’s questions soon became more pointed. “Where were you that night?” The trial continues today.
Featured Image: Grace Millane murder trial: Photo / Q radio / Via Google image