Killer of British backpacker Grace Millane is jailed for at least 17 years

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The man who murdered British backpacker Grace Millane has been jailed for life.

Grace was throttled by a Tinder date who stuffed her body inside a suitcase and buried it in a shallow grave in woodland near Auckland in December 2018.

The 22-year-old, from Wickford in Essex, had been travelling in New Zealand after graduating and spent several hours drinking with the man before going back to his apartment.

Her killer, now 28, was convicted back in November after jurors saw through his ‘rough sex gone wrong’ defence and Justice Simon Moore ordered he serve a minimum 17 years behind bars for the ‘callous and depraved’ murder.

Grace’s family attended the sentencing hearing via video-link from the UK, having said after the trial that they would be returning home to ‘try and pick up the pieces of our lives’.

Her brother Declan described how ‘our family was ripped apart’ by the murder and said he has ‘not felt whole since my sister’s death’.

In another moving impact statement her mum Gillian said Grace ‘was never just a daughter, she was my friend, my very best friend’, the New Zealand Herald reported.

She told the court she’d contemplated taking her own life in the aftermath of the killing but couldn’t put her family through it and needed to support them with their own grief.

Turning to address the killer directly Mrs Millane told him: ‘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.

‘I am absolutely heartbroken that you have taken my daughter’s future and robbed us of so many memories that we were going to create.’

During his trial, the court heard Grace went for drinks with the defendant in central Auckland on December 1, 2018, before accompanying him back to his flat.

She was killed either that night or in the early hours of the following morning – the date of her 22nd birthday.

Her murderer, who still cannot be named for legal reasons, then took intimate photos of her dead body and watched extreme pornography before disposing of her remains.

Prosecutor Brian Dickey said he had ‘eroticised’ the murder and displayed a high level of ‘cruelty, depravity and callousness’.

In his defence, the cruel killer insisted the pair had engaged in consensual sex, during which she asked to be strangled.

He maintains her death was an accident and said he only realised she was dead when he found her lying on the floor the following morning.

Grace’s heart-broken parents sat in the public gallery as details of their daughter’s dating life were pored over in open court in an effort to prop up his bogus claims.

Her dad David sobbed as he told reporters following the conviction that her ‘barbaric’ murder will ‘be with us for the rest of our lives’.

He said: ‘Grace was a beautiful, talented, loving daughter. Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever.’

Grace’s cousin Hannah O’Callaghan earlier told BBC Breakfast that the sentence ‘will not change the fact that she is gone’.