Tinder Date Turns Deadly When New Zealand Man Strangles British Tourist
Defendant sought "some sort of weird thrill," the prosecutor said.
On Friday a jury in Auckland, New Zealand reportedly found a man guilty in the fatal strangling of a British tourist he met on the dating app Tinder.
Prosecutors alleged the 27-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, killed Grace Millane out of "morbid sexual interest." He took seven "trophy" photos of her nude body and stuffed her in a suitcase before burying her in a shallow grave, the Independent reported.
On Dec. 1, 2018, the night before her 22nd birthday, Millane reportedly went to several Auckland bars and eateries with the man, whom she just met in person for the first time. CCTV footage shows the two enter CityLife Hotel at 9:40 p.m., according to the New Zealand Tribune.
In a statement to authorities, the defendant, police said, claimed he and Millane had "rough sex" in his hotel room before he passed out in the shower. Upon waking, he said he discovered Millane "lying on the floor" with "blood coming from her nose," according to police.
Prosecuting attorney Robin McCoubrey insisted the man's story was a lie and told jurors evidence shows the defendant performed several suspicious Internet searches in the early hours of Dec. 2, 2018. Those searches, McCoubrey said, included seeking information about rental cars, large bags, "hottest fire," and the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park.
"He is trying to find a place to hide her body … [and] he is trying to find a means of disposing of her body," McCoubrey said of the searches, according to News.com.au. "There can be no reason for making those searches if Ms. Millane was alive unless there was a plan to kill her."
Jurors viewed CCTV footage that reportedly shows the man leaving his room on the morning of Dec. 2, 2018, to rent a car and purchase a suitcase and cleaning supplies, including gloves and a Rug Doctor.
According to court testimony, the defendant then went on another Tinder date he had previously arranged. That woman testified the defendant inexplicably mentioned "a lot of bodies" are "missing in the Waitākeres," and cadaver dogs cannot detect bodies buried more than four feet underground, the New Zealand Herald reported.
"I thought it was an unusual thing to say on a date, but people say strange things on dates," the woman testified.
Later that evening, at 9:27 p.m., CCTV footage shows the man leaving the CityLife hotel with several pieces of luggage, which he is seen loading into the rental car. At 6:14 the next morning, he reportedly drove to a hardware store, bought a shovel, and went to the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. Roughly three hours later, he returned to his hotel room without shoes, prosecutors alleged.
On Dec. 9, 2018, authorities found Millane's body in a shallow grave at the park.
During the trial, lead defense attorney Ian Brookie argued Millane's death was part of a consensual BDSM act that "went wrong" during "a perfectly ordinary, casual sexual encounter between a young couple."
Brookie said the man searched for a place to dump Millane's body because he was in "shock" and concerned how her death would appear to investigators.
"The defense is not doing this in any way to suggest that Ms. Millane is to blame; she is not to blame," Brookie said. "Put simply, this was an accident; it was not murder."
During closing arguments on Nov. 21, prosecutor Brian Dickey poked at the defense theory, claiming the man strangled Millane for "approximately five to 10 minutes," the New Zealand Herald reported.
"It's not safe sex play that killed Grace Millane, it's strangulation," Dickey reportedly told the Auckland High Court. The defendant, Dickey claimed, was "seeking total domination and some sort of weird thrill over women who were his sexual partners."
Following the jury's guilty verdict, David Millane said his daughter did not deserve to die in such a horrific manner.
"Grace was taken in the most brutal fashion a year ago, and our lives have been ripped apart," Millane said outside the courthouse, according to the Evening Standard. "Grace was our sunshine, and she will be missed forever."
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21. The defendant faces a mandatory life sentence and won't be eligible for parole for at least 10 years.