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Backpacker Grace Milane ‘was strangled then killer went out on a date’

Traveller: Grace Millane arrived in New Zealand on a round-the-world trip PICTURE: PA

BRITISH backpacker Grace Millane’s father wiped away a tear as a New Zealand court heard her body was found inside a suitcase a week after she went missing.

Ms Millane was on a round-the-world trip when she arrived in the country last November and went on a Tinder date with the 27-year-old man accused of her murder.

Prosecutors allege the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, strangled her during rough sex at his Auckland city centre flat — before going on another date the next day.

The defence claims Ms Millane’s death last year, on either December 1 or December 2 — which was her 22nd birthday — was accidental.

Emotional: David and Gillian Millane PICTURE: GETTY

Her parents David and Gillian Millane, of Wickford, Essex, watched as prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told Auckland high court: ‘Strangling someone to death with your hands isn’t inadvertent.’

The defendant allegedly first told police the pair met for a drink then parted ways. But he later admitted they engaged in rough sex, involving biting and hitting. He insisted he did not realise she had died and had a shower before going back to bed.

The defendant is said to have told police: ‘I woke up the next day and saw that she was lying on the floor. I saw that she had blood coming from her nose.’

Prosecutors claim phone records show he had looked at pornography online multiple times after Ms Millane died and took seven intimate photographs of her body.

He also allegedly searched online for ‘the hottest fire’, ‘large bags near me’ and ‘Waitakere Ranges’ — where her body was found in the suitcase. He later hired a professional carpet cleaning device.

Mr McCoubrey said: ‘If something had gone wrong, or someone fell unconscious and it was an accident, you’d expect someone to call for emergency assistance. But the accused had plainly gone to some lengths to break any forensic links between him and Ms Millane.’

Footage showed the accused bought the suitcase and used a trolley to take it from his flat to a hire car.

The case was found in a shallow grave on December 9. ‘Only two people know what happened in that room, one of them can’t tell us, the other one hasn’t told the truth,’ Mr McCoubrey told jurors.

Defence barrister Ian Brookie said Ms Millane ‘died as a result of what they consensually engaged in together’. A pathologist told jurors the cause of death was ‘pressure to the neck’. Det Con Lewis Sin said her body was ‘in the foetal position’ and she was wearing black nail polish.

Ms Millane’s mother clutched a tissue to her mouth as she heard earrings and a small metal tag inscribed with the word ‘freedom’ were found in the suitcase. The trial continues.