A 27-year-old man has been found guilty of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane.
The man, whose name is subject to a suppression order, had claimed Millane’s death was accidental and occurred during rough sexual intercourse.
The jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict after just five hours deliberation at Auckland High Court.
The killer stood emotionless, flanked by two corrections officers, as the verdict was read out, while Grace’s parents, David and Gillian Millane, wept.
Mr Millane wept as he told reporters: “The verdict of murder today will be welcomed by every member of the Millane family and friends of Grace.
“It will not reduce the pain and suffering we have had to endure over the past year.
“Grace was taken in the most brutal fashion a year ago and our lives have been ripped apart.
“Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever.”
Grace and her killer had connected through the dating app Tinder and met in Auckland on December 1, 2018.
The defendant had been accused of strangling Millane, from Wickford, Essex, and shoving her body inside a suitcase before burying her in a forested area outside Auckland.
Jurors has been shown security footage of Millane, who would have turned 22 on December 2, and the defendant drinking in various bars throughout the city.
Security footage showed the pair kiss repeatedly at the Bluestone Room before walking arm-in-arm a short distance into the lobby of the CityHigh hotel where the defendant was staying.
Millane was shown to follow the defendant out of the lift at 9.41pm.
It was the last time she was seen alive.
The court heard that data from the man’s phone showed he had used Google to browse websites for large duffel bags, suitcases and car hire.
The defendant’s phone was also used to search for “flesh-eating birds” and “are there vultures in New Zealand?” days later, on December 5, 2018.
Records showed the defendant had searched online for “the hottest fire”, “large bags near me” and “Waitakere Ranges” – where Millane’s body was later found contorted inside a suitcase on December 9, 2018 – before going on another Tinder date later that day.
Before the jury delivered their verdict, justice Simon Moore told them they had to be sure the man had murderous intent when he put his hands on Millane’s neck in order to convict him of murder, the New Zealand Herald reported.
“If yes, then (the defendant) is guilty of murder,” the judge said.“In other words, (he) must have appreciated Ms Millane’s death was a likely consequence… but was willing to run that risk.”
On Friday the killer was remanded to custody until his sentencing on February 21, 2020.
He faces life in prison with a minimum of 10 years without parole, though the judge can increase the latter period.