Grace Millane: British backpacker will take her final journey home this weekend

2018-12-15 02:16:21

As Kiwis in Auckland and Christchurch marched for peace in honour of Grace Millane on Saturday, her father was due to head home to England with the slain British backpacker's body.

Nearly two weeks after 22-year-old Millane was first reported missing and five days after a 26-year-old man appeared in court charged with her murder, the country is still mourning a young woman who Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said "should have been safe here".

Marches took place on the streets in Auckland and Christchurch at midday on Saturday to mark Millane's death. Police earlier said her father David would be returning to the UK with her body this weekend.

Also on Saturday, a cohort of prominent women including former Prime Ministers Helen Clarke and Jenny Shipley signed "an open letter to the men and government of New Zealand" and submitted it to the Prime Minister's office. The letter stated that New Zealand had some of the worst statistics for violence against women in the OECD and listed actions each party could take to make our country a safer place.

"Women going on solo adventures or meeting new people for dates are not the problem here. Men who commit acts of violence against women are," it read.

"​But violence is preventable if we work together at an individual, whānau, community, regional and national level."

In downtown Auckland, about 1000 people – most dressed in white, to symbolise peace – marched up Queen St in honour of Millane on Saturday. They gathered in Aotea Square for a minute's silence, followed by playing John Lennon's Imagine and a rendition of You are my Sunshine.

The event's organiser Vanessa Higgins, from Takanini, said she "hoped Grace's family and friends can see by what what we have done this week that we are not a bad and violent country".

"Unfortunately, [Grace] met a bad and violent man."

Higgins said Millane's death appeared to have made New Zealand take stock of its dire domestic violence rates and she urged the crowd to "stand up, speak out, and ask for help" if they were affected by it.

The open letter asked the government to "adopt a comprehensive and cross-party strategy on preventing and ending gender based violence against women", run public awareness and behavioural change programmes, and ensure every woman in the country had access to to culturally appropriate domestic violence support services.

It asked men to respect all women and fight against their degradation, harassment and abuse.

"Listen openly to conversations about violence against women," the letter read. "Don't react defensively by insisting that 'not all men' are bad. We know they're not. But most violence towards women is committed by men. Help us to change that."

Undersecretary for domestic and sexual violence, Green MP Jan Logie< said on Saturday the government supported the call for cross-party action.

"Following at least two tragic killings of women in the past couple of weeks, I can understand how people want the fastest action possible to protect women. I want New Zealanders to know we are listening and the work we're doing is driven by the same sense of urgency," she said.

"Within just one year we have passed three new laws, injected more than $70 million into front line family violence services – the first increase in 10 years -  and created a whole new way of responding to family and sexual violence that will hold the whole of Government accountable.

"We have been reaching out to the opposition and next year we will be developing a national strategy and action plan to end family and sexual violence. This won't just be a plan for the Government this will be a plan for all of us."

Logie said a new tool to help the victims of sexual violence navigate the justice system was launched last Thursday and that WorkSafe had recently been directed to make combating sexual harassment a priority.


Grace Millane was allegedly murdered between December 1 and 2 in Auckland. Her body was found in the Wāitakere Ranges on Sunday.

Media commentator Jim Tucker said the case had captured the nation.

"I suspect it's embarrassed us," Tucker said.

"We forget that there's been a whole string of tourist deaths and we feel bad about a kid going to New Zealand."

Tucker said it had been very hard to watch the coverage over the last week.

"There's been a self-guarding thing here, with modern social media and phone which make us much more connected when these things happen," Tucker said.

On Monday, the man accused of murdering Millane appeared at the Auckland District Court where he was granted interim name suppression after his lawyer appealed Judge Thomas' decision.

A judge who refuses name suppression must grant interim suppression for a 20-working-day appeal period if the defendant indicates they will appeal.

However, shortly after his appearance his identity was revealed online by international media who don't fall under the same jurisdiction as New Zealand publications.

Global search engine Google even broke suppression by sending out an email to subscribers of its Google Trends service naming the accused in the subject line on Tuesday.

However, a Google spokeswoman said the information was spread because the company did not receive a court order in relation to the case.

Vice-president of the Criminal Bar Association Jonathan Eaton QC slammed overseas media and bloggers for sharing information about the accused.

"There is an alarming trend in the reporting and the sharing of information of this case that could open the way to defence counsel arguing that the accused could not get a fair trial," Eaton said.


Vigils were held across the country during the week, with the first in Queenstown, where Millane's brother's friend lit candles on a birthday cake for her.

Josh Lewis had hoped to catch up with his mate's younger sister, but he never got the chance.

"I know she was here on her own. She probably wouldn't have got a cake. I obviously wasn't in Auckland at the time so this way she has one," Lewis said.

Thousands then gathered in Auckland on Wednesday for two vigils near SkyCity, one of the last places Millane was seen.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard who has been in charge of the investigation thanked the Millane family, saying they had "been extremely dignified in a situation that is unthinkable for most of us".

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff spoke at one of the vigils and asked people to avoid victim-blaming.

"We need to change our culture, we need to change the way that too many men behave towards their partners and their family members," he said.

"Tonight we think of Grace. Like thousands of us, she was on her OE. It should have been the adventure of a lifetime. Tragically that adventure was cut short."


Grace Millane's father David, who travelled to New Zealand to help in the search, said his daughter would "forever be a Kiwi" and thanked New Zealand for "taking her into you hearts".

"By the amount of pictures and messages we received she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle," he said.

David Millane said since his daughter disappeared on December 1, "our whole world turned upside down."

The moment he arrived in New Zealand last week David Millane had been "astounded by the level of concern, sympathy and selfless help" from the people he and his brother had met.

"Gill, Michael, Declan and myself would sincerely like to thank everybody involved and express our most profound gratitude," he said.

"In this difficult situation where everybody is a true hero it is sometimes difficult to single out certain people.

"Despite this we would like to offer our most sincere thanks and everlasting gratitude to; Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who has been a most measured, selfless, human and professional face of Auckland Police.

"His emotional media statements have made him many fans both in New Zealand and at home in the UK.

Millane also hoped that what happened to his daughter would not deter "even one person" from venturing out into the world on their own OE.


Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologised on behalf of New Zealand to the Millane family.

"Firstly, I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they will be experiencing and feeling right now," Ardern said.

"All New Zealanders will feel heartbreak for that family.

"From the Kiwis I have spoken to there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality, on our manaakitanga especially to those who are visiting our shores.

"On behalf of New Zealand, I would like to apologise to Grace's family, your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn't and I'm sorry for that," Ardern said.

Justice Minister Andrew Little also hit out at the British media for revealing the details in the case.

If they want justice for Millane they should refrain from publishing information, he said.

"The international media, particularly the British media are not helping the Millane family. And if they are concerned about doing justice for the family, they should stop publishing details," Little said.

The accused would face trial in New Zealand, if he did not plead guilty earlier, and the justice system had to make sure the accused got a fair trial, he said.

The defence would be looking for every opportunity to say a trial right might be compromised and that was why suppression needed to be abided by, he said.

While the man accused of murdering Grace Millane won't be back in court until January, the police will continue to work to piece together missing pieces of the puzzle.

And Grace Millane will take her final journey home with her Dad.

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