The depraved Tinder date who strangled British backpacker Grace Millane has been sentenced to life in prison and must serve at least 17 years as the judge tells him ‘she trusted you’.
Ms Millane, of Wickford, Essex, was killed by the now 28-year-old Jesse Kempson in December 2018 after the pair went on a Tinder date while she was in New Zealand.
Her body was later found buried in a shallow grave in a forested area outside Auckland. Kempson was found guilty at Auckland High Court in November last year, but the sentence was deferred until now.
In his sentencing remarks, Justice Simon Moore said the attack on the 21-year-old was not pre-meditated or driven by rage, but there was no doubt that Ms Millane was vulnerable.
‘You are a large and powerful man, she was diminutive. You were in a position of total physical dominance,’ he said.
Justice Moore described the photos Kempson took of Ms Millane’s body as ‘depraved’ and said his actions showed a ‘lack of empathy’.
Speaking outside the court Det Insp Scott Beard said using the defence of rough sex had ‘further victimised the family’.
Kempson, wearing a dark suit, left the dock in silence and showed little emotion as he was led away to begin his prison sentence.
The sentencing remarks came after Ms Millane’s mother Gillian Millane, appeared in court via video link from the family home and read an emotional victim impact statement, saying her daughter ‘was my friend, my very best friend’ and that the murderer had ‘taken my daughter’s future’.
Recalling the moment when her daughter disappeared she said that not knowing where she was left her in ‘agonising pain’, as reported by the NZ Herald.
Speaking directly to her daughter’s killer, who stood in the dock wearing a dark suit with his head in his hands, she said: ‘The terror and pain she must have experienced at your hands, as a mother I would have done anything to change places with her. She died terrified and alone in a room with you.’
She added: ‘The tears I shed are never-ending at the thought of never having the chance to kiss my Grace goodbye.’
British backpacker Grace Millane (left) was killed by Jesse Kempson (right), who will be sentenced for his crimes today
Gillian Millane, appeared in court via video link, and read an emotional victim impact statement, saying her daughter ‘was my friend, my very best friend’ and that the murderer had ‘taken my daughter’s future’
After Kempson was found guilty of Ms Millane’s murder, her father Mr Millane and her mother, Gillian Millane, wept, as did several jurors after the verdict last year
Ms Millane, of Wickford, Essex, was killed by 27-year-old Jesse Kempson in December 2018 after the pair went on a Tinder date . Pictured: CCTV the backpacker inside a hotel lift with Kempson, 27. It was the last footage of her alive
Ms Millane had just started to travel the world after recently graduating from university when she went on a date with Kempson. Pictured: CCTV footage followed Ms Millane and Kempson throughout their their date, including their first stop at a casino (pictured)
The killer used the three-week murder trial last year to tell poisonous lies about Grace dying accidentally during rough sex he falsely claimed she had enjoyed and even encouraged because she was a fan of the 50 Shades of Grey films.
He was defended by Ian Brookie and in closing remarks the judge praised the barrister for his competency and added that the level of public criticism Brookie received during the trial was ‘entirely wrong’.
He added that he should not have been criticised on social media for putting his case forward on behalf of his client.
The family have now said they are pleased with the sentence that was handed to their daughter’s killer and Detective Inspector Scott Beard said the sentence was a reflection of the gravity of the murder.
Speaking outside the court Det Beard said: ‘Today’s sentencing sees the end of a long and difficult period of time for the Millane family. The impact of losing their daughter on her birthday and in a foreign country has been devastated and no matter what this outcome today, they will forever have a life sentence as Gillian Millane said today in an impact statement.
‘Even though their lives have been changed forever we hope with support from family and friends they can somehow try and move forward with their lives.
‘I’d like to thank the police staff who have worked tirelessly in this investigation they were professional, they were hard working and they were determined to find justice for Grace and that is what has happened today.
‘I also want to thank the New Zealand public for the messages of support that they sent through the investigation and the prosecution for the Millane family – it was absolutely unbelievable.
‘The sentence today is a reflection of the gravity and the ongoing impact of the murders’ actions have had not only on the family but people in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
‘Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Grace’s family and her friends as they continue to make sense of a senseless and needless murder.
He added: ‘Strangling someone for 5-10 minutes is not rough sex, if people are going to use that type of defence all it does it further victimise the family.
‘In this case the Millanes have had to sit through this trial for weeks and rightly or wrongly their daughters background was out in the public.’
She was killed either that night, December 1st, or in the early hours of the next morning, the date of her 22nd birthday. Pictured: The pair were then pictured paying after spending an hour at a cafe
Pictures of the bedroom where Kempson throttled Ms Millane during what he claimed was a sex game that went wrong
Her body was later found in a suitcase buried in a shallow grave in a forested area outside Auckland. Pictured: Forensic examiners are pictured marking out the area where the suitcase containing Grace’s body was buried
Ms Millane’s family have now set up a charity in her memory, called Love Grace, where handbags and toiletries are collected for domestic abuse victims
In fact he had choked her to death for his own sexual pleasure, watched porn afterwards and stuffed her body in a suitcase. The murderer even left Grace in his blood-soaked room to go on another date before he decided to bury her in a muddy hole a New Zealand forest.
The 22-year-old’s brother, Declan Millane, and sister-in-law, also appeared via video link from the family home, with a picture of Grace visible in the background.
Fighting through tears, Mr Millane said: ”This person did not just take Grace’s life, he took away a peice of my life as well. I have not felt whole since my sister’s death.’
Grace’s final hours on the Tinder date that led to her death
December 1, 2018
5.45pm: Grace Millane was shown arriving in front of the casino’s 20 foot tall Christmas tree, where she stood waiting for her date. She sends a picture of the tree to her parents in Essex. He arrives and they hug.
6pm: The two of them walk into the casino and find Andy’s Burger Bar.He and Grace were seen ordering drinks and finding a table.
7.12pm: The couple left the burger bar and cross the road into the Mexican cafe where they spend the next hour until the defendant came pay the bill with her standing beside him.
8.27pm: The pair were filmed in the distance crossing Albert Street and moving ever closer to the killer’s home. They headed into the Bluestone Room where the accused had earlier been drinking beer alone. They kiss
9.41pm: CCTV shows the couple entering the hotel where the killer was living. They enter the lift and head to the killer’s apartment. In the hours that followed she was brutally murdered, possibly in the early hours of December 2, her birthday.
Her death shocked many in New Zealand, which prides itself on welcoming tourists and where many people travel abroad as well.
Hundreds of people attended candlelight vigils after she died, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about New Zealanders feeling ‘hurt and shame’ that she was killed in their country.
Tourism is also one of New Zealand’s largest industries, accounting for more than 20 per cent of foreign exchange earnings and about 6 per cent of the overall economy. The case has been closely followed in Britain as well.
The guilty verdict brought to an end an 11-month saga of pain for the close-knit family, who waved goodbye to their daughter in October last year as she set out on a world tour after graduating from Lincoln University.
After spending time in Peru, she arrived in New Zealand in mid-November and arranged her fateful Tinder for the night of December 1, planning to celebrate her 22nd birthday the next day.
She greeted her killer with a hug, standing beside a Christmas tree in the courtyard of the SkyCity casino. They toured several bars, drinking cocktails and, as she told one of her best friends in a text message, she was clearly impressed.
‘I click with him so well,’ she wrote to her friend Ameena Ashcroft. ‘I will let you know what happens tomorrow.’
By the morning, however, Grace was lying dead in the £190-a-week third-floor apartment at the CityLife hotel in central where the killer, a local man, lived.
She had been strangled during sex and the killer had taken a series of intimate photographs of her naked body before watching hardcore pornography through the early hours.
The man began December 2, Grace’s 22nd birthday, by buying a suitcase to transport her body to a shallow grave in remote bushland.
But even before he did so, he was arranging another Tinder date for that afternoon, in which he told a woman a bogus story about a supposed friend who had killed a woman during sex.
Shocking pictures played to the jury reveal the moment police discovered the body of murdered British backpacker Grace Millane dumped in this muddy hole in the ground
At 7.12pm, the footage aired in court shows the couple left the burger bar and walked through the casino atrium and down the escalator walking out onto the street and past the Christmas tree
8.45pm: Three hours after their first meeting Miss Millane and the defendant are shown kissing repeatedly in Auckland’s Bluestone Bar, where her killer was drinking before the date
A video of the killer’s (left) interview with police was played to jurors at Auckland High Court in New Zealand today. A photograph of Grace lay on the table in front of him
Left, Grace in April 2017. Right, Adventure-loving Grace is pictured here in September 2016, in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge
The Millanes: (L-R) father David, brother Michael, mother Gillian, brother Declan and Grace, who died in Auckland, New Zealand in December last year
He was first snared by a message he left on Grace’s Facebook profile page the night before, as he waited to leave the Bluestone Room bar around the corner.
Contacted by police, he wove an elaborate web of lies, at first claiming he and Grace had parted as friends, planning to meet the next day.
Trapped by CCTV showing him buying the suitcase, however, he changed his story, claiming Grace had told him she had learned BDSM sex games with a former boyfriend and had asked him to choke her during intercourse.
He said they had each taken photographs of each other’s private parts on their cellphones and that after sex he had fallen asleep, drunk, under the shower without suspecting Grace was in danger.
His lies were exposed by data recovered from his mobile phone which showed he had searched for ‘Waitakere Ranges’, the hills where he later buried Grace, and ‘hottest fire’, minutes before taking the photos of her.
That, the verdict confirmed, was proof that, as Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey had told the jury, he had ‘eroticised her death.’
‘It’s not safe sex play that killed Grace Millane, it’s strangulation,’ said Mr Dickey. ‘At some point of which she lost consciousness and would have become limp and lifeless and he had to carry on.
‘And if that’s not reckless murder someone will have to explain to me what is.’