Grace Millane: Backpacker ‘was strangled for up to five minutes’, court hears

British backpacker Grace Millane had a pattern of bruises on her body which suggested she had been pinned down with force before she died, a forensic pathologist has told a New Zealand court.

Dr Simon Stables described the cause of Ms Millane’s death as “pressure to the neck”, and added that it would need to have been sustained for four or five minutes to cause the level of bruising she had suffered.

He told the jury: “It’s not going to happen with a gentle touch. It’s got to be with some force.

“It takes quite a bit of effort.”

Dr Stables said a deep internal bruise in the 21-year-old’s neck, which was not visible on the surface of her skin, suggested it happened at the time of her death.

Other bruises on her torso were “consistent with some level of restraint”, he added.

But he did agree that some of the bruising on Ms Millane’s arms could have been the result of “consensual but physical sex”.

Auckland High Court was told on Wednesday that the man accused of killing Ms Millane, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pretended to be the cousin of an All Back.

It was one of a string of claims made by the man when he met a university student for a Tinder date, the court heard.

She had told the jury that she had to fight for her life when he tried to suffocate her as she gave him oral sex.

The student branded the 27-year-old accused “a sociopath”.

The man’s barrister, Ron Mansfield, suggested she had made up her story to explain her dealings with the man after she learned he had been charged with murder. She denied this.

“You’re attempting to turn this encounter into something quite different,” said Mr Mansfield. “You wanted to portray him in the worst possible light.

“You wanted to portray yourself as a bit of a victim.”

But she told the court: “It was one of the worst days of my life. You can’t take that away.

“He would have seen me kicking and writhing, you can’t say that I was enjoying it.”

The woman, whose identity is protected, said the man had pretended to be dying of cancer on the night of their Tinder date in November last year, just a month before Miss Millane was killed in the same apartment.

He also said he was the cousin of an All Black, the legendary national rugby team, and that he had been invited to watch the players’ last game with their wives and girlfriends, she said.

He even pretended to call the star and leave a phone message for the player, she told the court.

The man boasted about a $500,000 (£247,000) business deal he had pulled off that day and told her he had been raped by a male relative but had enlisted members of a gang to chase the man away.

“I didn’t believe a word he said,” she said.

“A person who almost killed someone by suffocating them, then to claim to be in pain to make me feel sympathy to get me to stay…

“There’s a word for that – a sociopath.”

Mr Mansfield referred to a huge archive of text messages the woman had exchanged with the man after the alleged suffocation incident, in which she suggested continuing their relationship and told him: “I hope you still want me.”

The barrister suggested the man had got off her when she stopped performing oral sex and that her version was invented.

“Can I suggest to you that if anything as horrific as this had happened you wouldn’t have engaged in 708 messages with him in the following days would you?” said Mr Mansfield. “You could have just ghosted him.”

But the woman told the court: “I was scared of him. I didn’t want him showing up in my life. It doesn’t make sense to you but I did what I felt I had to do to feel safe.”

She said she had not told anyone about the incident until she was questioned by police five months later. “I was ashamed and embarrassed that I had put myself in a dangerous position,” she said.

The accused denies murder. Prosecutors allege he strangled Grace during sex on 1 or 2 December last year and buried her naked body in a suitcase in the woods.

He claims her death was accidental after she asked him to choke her during sex.


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