NZ murder charge over missing backpacker

Grace MillaneImage copyright Lucie Blackman Trust
Image caption The 22-year-old graduated from university in September and went travelling shortly afterwards

A 26-year-old man is to be charged with the murder of missing British backpacker Grace Millane, New Zealand Police have said.

Miss Millane, 22, from Essex – described by her father as “lovely” and “family-orientated” – was last seen in New Zealand a week ago.

Police said they believe she was murdered although her body has not yet been found.

Det Insp Scott Beard said the evidence told police she was “no longer alive”.

“Grace’s family have been advised of this development and they are devastated,” Det Insp Beard added.

The announcement follows a review of CCTV footage, the forensic examination of a hotel where she was last seen on Saturday 1 December, and the discovery of a vehicle.

On Saturday, police announced they will charge a 26-year-old man, who had been speaking to officers after being located at an address in central Auckland.

He will remain in police custody until Monday when he is due in court, police said.

Det Insp Beard said police were “determined to do everything we can to find” Miss Millane.

He added the “thoughts of all New Zealanders will be with Grace’s family tonight”.

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Media captionDet Insp Scott Beard said they believed Miss Millane was “no longer alive”

Miss Millane, who graduated from the University of Lincoln in September, had been travelling alone in New Zealand for two weeks, following a six-week group trip through South America.

She had booked to stay at the Base Backpackers hostel in central Auckland until 8 December.

Speaking at a news conference in Auckland on Friday, Grace’s father, David Millane, said his daughter had been “bombarding us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures” before she went missing.

A number of Miss Millane’s belongings – including her passport, a silver necklace and pink watch – are missing, and police say they hope their discovery could help them locate her body.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police released CCTV images of the backpacker at Auckland’s Sky City entertainment complex before she disappeared
Image copyright Auckland City Police/PA
Image caption Miss Millane’s family are “devastated”, police say

Tim Blackman, who set up the Lucie Blackman Trust after the murder of his 21-year-old daughter in Japan in 2000, said it was important for Miss Millane’s family to have time to themselves.

“They’ll feel particularly mashed up and very, very traumatised,” he said.

His charity offers support to families of people missing abroad, who can face issues such as getting to the country quickly or last-minute flight expenses.

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