New Zealand’s Supreme Court judges will today gather to decide whether the man who murdered Grace Millane should be publicly identified.
The killer’s identity was due to be revealed last Friday, but with just minutes before the 11am deadline, the country’s top court decided to keep suppression in place until it can make a final determination.
However, Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, and Justices William Young and Mark O’Regan, have signalled a relatively quick resolution to the man’s suppression, which has continued since his first court appearance after killing the British backpacker in December 2018.
The top court gave the killer’s legal team until 5pm last Friday to file their arguments, while the Crown and media were ordered to do the same by 10am today.
“The court will then deal with the application for leave on the papers,” the Supreme Court’s decision read.
It is possible a decision on suppression may be reached before the Christmas break.
Shortly after the Supreme Court’s announcement it was maintaining suppression, the Court of Appeal delivered its decision on the killer’s appeal of his conviction and sentence for fatally strangling Millane, whom he met on the dating app Tinder, in December 2018.
Both appeals were dismissed.
However, the man continues to claim his innocence and asserts Millane died during rough sex. He has already said a second appeal to the Supreme Court will occur.
When throwing out the challenges, the Court of Appeal judges ruled the Crown was not required to disprove consent or an honest belief in it at the high-profile trial last November.
“On appeal at least, the Crown does not suggest he set out to kill Ms Millane. Rather, it says he intended to cause her bodily injury by strangulation, for sexual effect, knew that was likely to cause death and consciously ran that risk,” the judgment reads.
“Consent is not available as a matter of law where there is an intent to cause injury known to be likely to cause death, that risk is run, and death ensues.”
When considering the killer’s sentence, the Court of Appeal said Justice Moore was correct when imposing a non-parole period of 17 years.
“To be plain about matters, it really is very difficult to imagine much greater vulnerability than the situation Ms Millane found herself in on the evening of Saturday, December 1, 2018.”
After Millane died, the killer also searched the internet for methods of how to dispose of her body – which was discovered in a grave in the Waitākere Ranges – looked at pornography online, and took intimate photos of her naked body.
He also went on another date while Millane’s body remained in his downtown Auckland hotel apartment.
“We conclude that this behaviour is indicative of a degree of wholly self-regarding wickedness throughout the incident and its aftermath.”
The court hearings have cost thousands of dollars in legal aid, with the Ministry of Justice revealing the murderer’s bill was more than $400,000.
In a statement after the Court of Appeal’s judgment, Millane’s family thanked the judges and others involved with the case.
“We would also like to thank the people of New Zealand for the love and support they have shown to Grace and our family over the last two years.”
“Grace was a kind, fun-loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, aunty, cousin and friend with her whole life ahead of her.
“She was enjoying the first of what would have been a lifetime of adventures before her life was so cruelly and brutally cut short by her murderer.”
The Millane family said while the focus would inevitably be on the outcome of the legal process, they had their girl at the forefront of their minds.
“As a family our hearts and our love will always be with our beautiful Grace,” they said.
“Grace, you are, and will always be, our sunshine.”
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