Warning: Contains graphic and sexual content.
The man accused of murdering Grace Millane broke down during a second interview with police and admitted his Tinder date was dead and how he had disposed of her body.
The jury in the High Court at Auckland has today watched the videotaped interview conducted on December 8 – a week after Millane went missing.
The accused eventually agreed to tell detectives where Grace’s body could be found because he wanted her family to have “closure”.
Crown prosecutors allege that on the night of December 1 last year – the eve of Millane’s 22nd birthday – the accused strangled her to death in his CityLife hotel apartment.
The Herald brings you the latest updates from the courtroom today:
Crown closes its case against accused
The Crown has now presented all its evidence against the accused.
About 30 witnesses were used by the prosecutors during the first two weeks of the trial.
The defence will now prepare its case – which is likely to begin on Monday.
A person’s neck can be ‘compressed relatively easily’ – doctor
Dr Clare Healy, a forensic physician, gave evidence this afternoon via video link from Australia.
An expert in non-fatal strangulation, she explained how sensitive the human brain is to oxygen deprivation.
“Brain cells do not survive without oxygen.”
She told the court a person’s neck could be “compressed relatively easily” and if pressure continued it may result in death.
“The signs and symptoms will depend on the amount of pressure and how long it is applied for,” she said.
“Recovery may occur after pressure is released … If pressure is continued death will arise.”
Healy said just 2kg of pressure on a person’s neck may interfere with blood flow. This she said was equivalent to the amount of pressure required to crush a can of Coke.
Some 5kg of pressure would be required to restrict the blood flow in the arteries, she said.
A person may lose consciousness due to pressure on their neck in as little as 10 to 20 seconds, Healy said.
Death, she said, could result anywhere from 90 seconds to six minutes.
Crown solicitor Brian Dickey asked Healy if blood could drip from someone’s nose as a result of strangulation.
“Yes, I think it could. It’s not something I have seen,” she said. “I understand it can happen.”
The accused claims when he saw Millane was dead on the floor of his apartment she had blood coming from her nose.
Under cross-examination by the accused’s lawyer Ian Brookie, Healy said a person could die from pressure to their neck in one or all of four ways – restriction of the veins, arteries, windpipe or pressure on a small cluster of nerve cells.
Evidence buried beneath 10m of trash and the accused’s mystery trip to Mission Bay
Detective Inspector Scott Beard, the officer in charge of the police investigation, told the court his team made inquiries to find Millane’s possessions after they were dumped in an Albert Park trash bin by the accused.
He said police were led to a tip in East Tamaki.
It was a 100m by 70m area.
Of more concern, he said, was that every day an additional 2m of soil was dumped on top of the day’s rubbish.
Because police didn’t know Millane’s possessions were there until days after the accused discarded them on December 5, her clothes – and more importantly her phone – was now 10m underground and in an unknown location.
“The decision was made that it was so resource intensive that we would not search the tip,” Beard said.
Police have never found Millane’s cellphone.
The veteran detective also told the court the accused made an Uber trip to Mission Bay on December 6 at 5.22am.
However, records show, eight minutes after arriving at the seaside suburb the accused caught another Uber back to the city and returned to the CityLife hotel at 5.58am.
Beard said police made inquiries to collect the CCTV footage from the area but found it was no longer available.
“A large part of the investigation was around CCTV in the city,” he said. “There are a lot of cameras in the city. By the time we got to Mission Bay it was too late.”
Cellphone polling data, Beard said, also showed the accused had been in the Waitakere Ranges before he confessed to dumping Millane’s body there.
“Our whole aim in the investigation was to find Grace, we would have found her because we were right in that area,” he said.
Up to 70 police staff were part of the investigation, Beard said.
Accused had bruises, scratches: doctor
Dr Samuel Rawlings conducted a medical exam of the accused at 11pm on December 8.
After recording his medical history, Rawlings said he noticed two bruises on the accused’s chest and right shoulder on the right side.
There were also five small scratches, which “appeared to be reasonably well healed”, on his left hand.
‘I want her family to know that it wasn’t intentional’
As the video interview continues, Detective Ewen Settle asked the accused where Millane’s possession were.
The alleged murderer said he had dumped “everything” in a rubbish bin in Auckland’s Albert Park.
“Everything that was in the room,” he said.
Settle asked: “Presumably her telephone is in her property in the rubbish bin?”
“Yep,” the accused replied.
The detective also asked if the accused was currently employed.
“Nah,” he said.
“When did you employment end?”
“Friday,” the accused said, referring to the day her matched with Millane on the dating app Tinder.
Settle then mentioned he had a text conversation between Millane and her friend Ameena Ashcroft from the night of December 1.
The accused claimed he told Millane he was a sales manager.
However, in Millane’s messages to Ashcroft the accused appears to have mentioned he is an oil company executive.
“Me? No,” the accused said. “My uncle works in an oil company.”
Settle asked: “Which oil company does he work for?”
The accused replied: “I don’t know.”
After a break, Settle returns to the interview room and asks if Millane had any injuries.
“Did you inflict any injuries on her?”
The accused replies no.
“Did you kill Grace Millane?”
“No,” he said.
“[Accused man], you’re under arrest for the murder of Grace Millane,” Settle says, before reading him his rights.
In the room is also the accused’s legal counsel Ian Brookie.
He asked his client if Millane died while she was in his company.
“Yes,” he said.
“Did you intend to cause her death?” Brookie continues.
Brookie also asks why he is telling the police his version of events.
“Because I want her family to know that it wasn’t intentional,” he said.
“But I also want her family to have closure and the other night when I was questioned by police I was still shocked and I apologise for misleading. So yeah, it’s basically so her family understand that it wasn’t an intentional thing.”
‘I’m sorry’: Accused told police he started dialling 111
When asked by Detective Ewen Settle why he didn’t call for an ambulance the accused said he “dialled 111”.
“But I didn’t hit the button because I was scared at how bad it looked,” he said.
“There’s a dead person in my room, I thought it looked terrible. Waking up to it I was like ‘holy sh*t’.”
After breaking down in tears and taking a break, the accused then described in the police interview what he did after realising Millane was dead.
“I was in shock, I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
“I took a whole heap of tablets that I had. I realised she wasn’t alive and I just wanted to end it all.”
The accused said he was “all over the place”.
“I didn’t believe what had happened,” he said. “I was just terrified and scared.”
The accused then confessed he went to The Warehouse on Elliot St in central Auckland and bought a suitcase – something he had previously denied.
“I went back and at first I didn’t know what to do,” he said, talking about returning to his CityLife apartment.
“I just put the suitcase on the bed. And I think I left again.”
The accused then said he tried to overdose on medication.
“I just was thinking that me and Grace had such a great night, we were talking about catching up in London.
“I was at the point where I just wanted to end my own life – I’d had enough, I was finished.”
The accused then recalled putting Millane’s body in the suitcase.
“I was just in shock the whole time I couldn’t put her in it because it just didn’t seem right. It just didn’t seem right.
“So I left and Grace was half-in half-out of the suitcase at that stage. I couldn’t do it.”
At this point in the video, the 27-year-old man leans forward in the dock and puts his head in his hands.
The accused said he then left to buy cleaning products – which was captured on CCTV.
“Then I remember coming back and I messaged a friend to catch up because I didn’t think it was real,” he said.
That “friend” was another Tinder date he went on in Ponsonby on December 2.
“I couldn’t get through the beer I was drinking,” he said.
“I got back to CityLife and … I spewed up a few times because I couldn’t put Grace in the bag. All I could think about was what we shared the night before.
“And then I put her in the bag. And the whole time I just kept saying I’m sorry,” he said crying.
In the dock, the accused kept his head down, sniffed and blew his nose.
The accused then moved the body on a luggage trolley from the hotel and into a rental car.
“I sat there for a little while, praying,” he said, after parking the car in a nearby parking building.
The next morning he drove to a hardware store in West Auckland and bought a shovel before continuing to the Waitakere Ranges.
“I went into the bush … And I start digging.”
The accused said he again took “20 maybe 30 paracetamol tablets”.
“Because I didn’t want to be around if Grace wasn’t there and didn’t think I deserved to be around because of what happened.
“I went and got the suitcase and put it in the hole, and covered the hole and then I drove 10-20 metres to the reservoir and sat there. I sat there just wanting the paracetamol to kick in, it didn’t, so I drove back to the city.”
In the courtroom, the accused didn’t look up again until he tells the detective he drove the rental car out west and cleaned it.
Throughout the video, the accused has been reading the transcript in the dock and fiddled with his pen, but has generally looked calm.
The jury is watching the second police interview between the accused and Detective Ewen Settle on December 8.
“Tell me what happened last Saturday,” Settle said.
“From the beginning?” the accused asked.
The alleged murderer then went through the events of December 1 – as have been captured and match the events on CCTV.
These included them meeting at SkyCity and visiting three bars to drink together.
After drinking at the Bluestone Room, the accused says the pair returned to his room at the CityLife hotel.
“We were kissing, we were talking,” he said. “She asked me to turn the TV off. I had the TV on the music channel.”
Then, the accused claims, Millane began talking about 50 Shades of Grey.
“She told me that there’s a few things she likes doing and that she’d done with her ex-partner.
“We started having sex, at first it was just normal. It was very placid.”
Then, the accused said, Millane brought up the topic of bondage.
“And she started biting and she asked me to bite her so I did,” he said.
“I stopped at first and said is this something you really want to do?”
The accused claimed Millane said: “We’re in the moment, let’s just go with it.”
The alleged killer said the pair talked for a while before having sex again.
“Holding my arms above my head and just biting and then she hit my butt … and then she held me around my neck and pushed down.
“She indicated that it made me harder … And so we swapped over, I got on top.
“We started having more, I guess, violent sex.”
The accused said the pair “ended up on the floor” before Millane took nude photos of him and he did the same.
“And then we kept going she told me to hold her arms tighter,” he said. “And then she told me to hold her throat and go harder.”
The accused said he then went to the bathroom – but fell asleep in the shower.
He remembered waking up when it was still dark and crawled back into the bed.
“I thought Grace had left,” he said.
“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.
“I screamed, I yelled out at her. I tried to move her to see if she was awake.”
The accused, however, said the room was also “pitch black”.
‘His eyes were creepy looking, they are rather intimidating’
This morning’s evidence has started with a central Auckland pharmacist talking about her interaction with the accused on December 3.
In a statement read to the court, Eliana Golberstein said the alleged murderer came into the store at about 3.40pm and was “behaving oddly”.
She said he was “standing there weirdly looking at the cameras and playing with his hands”.
Golberstein said the accused informed her he had a bad allergy and had hives on his hands.
“I noticed he was not speaking to my face or looking at my eyes,” her statement read, adding there were red marks between his fingers and on the back of his hands.
“His eyes were creepy looking, they are rather intimidating,” Golberstein said.
She prescribed antihistamines.
After seeing the accused’s name published in overseas media in stories about the disappearance of Millane “it triggered me to come in and talk to police”.
Accused’s Tinder date after Grace’s death
The somewhat notorious hills in the city’s west were mentioned by the accused during a Tinder date at a Ponsonby bar during the afternoon of December 2 – just hours after Millane died.
The accused’s date recalled her rendezvous with the alleged murderer for the Auckland court yesterday.
She said the accused mentioned all his mates were police officers and that he was “trying to find a really large duffel bag”.
He then began regaling a story about a man who accidentally killed a woman during rough sex and was later convicted of manslaughter, the woman said.
“It’s crazy how guys can make one wrong move and go to jail for the rest of their life,” the accused allegedly told her.