Murder trial revolves around ‘violent sex’
"Did you kill Grace Millane?"
"No," he said.
"You're under arrest for the murder of Grace Millane."
After hearing evidence from 30 witnesses during the past two weeks, that question - which 12 ordinary New Zealanders must answer - remains up for debate.
Yesterday, Auckland's Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey and his team closed their case against the 27-year-old man they believe strangled the British backpacker to death on the night of December 1 last year.
The defence, led by lawyer Ian Brookie, will now spend today and the weekend preparing its response before the trial recommences on Monday.
In courtroom 11 of the High Court at Auckland yesterday the jury watched a second police interview with Mr Brookie's client.
It was videotaped and conducted on December 8, two days after the accused was first questioned by Detective Ewen Settle.
This time, however, the interview went very differently and the accused's story changed.
Ms Millane was dead, he told Det Sgt Settle.
And she had died in his CityLife hotel apartment.
The accused had earlier lied to the detective and claimed he and Ms Millane parted ways at 10pm after matching on the dating app Tinder and meeting for a drink on the eve of her 22nd birthday.
He would soon be describing how he bought a suitcase and shovel.
He would also soon be leading police to a shallow grave in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges.
"Tell me what happened last Saturday," Det Sgt Settle said to begin the interview.
"From the beginning?" the accused asked, his lawyer Mr Brookie seated nearby.
The accused proceeded to describe the early evening events of December 1 - which have been corroborated by CCTV and witnesses and included drinking at three establishments.
Then, he turned to his version of events after the pair returned to his apartment.
"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, Ms Millane began talking about Fifty Shades of Grey.
"We started having sex, at first it was just normal. It was very placid."
Then, the accused said, Ms Millane brought up the topic of bondage and began biting him.
"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 Ms 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, this time he claims Ms Millane showed him how to hold her arms above her head and hold her around her neck.
"We started having more, I guess, violent sex."
The accused said the pair "ended up on the floor" before they each began taking intimate photos of each other.
"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."
Afterwards, the accused said he then went to the bathroom - where he passed out in the shower.
He told Det Sgt Settle he recalls waking up when it was still dark and crawling back into the bed.
"I thought Grace had left," he said.
But, the accused claims, he woke the next day to find "blood coming from her nose".
"I screamed, I yelled out at her. I tried to move her to see if she was awake."
After a break in the interview, Det Sgt Settle returns and asks if the accused inflicted any injuries on Millane.
The accused replies no.
"Did you kill Grace Millane?"
"No," he said.
Mr Brookie also asks his client if Ms Millane died while she was in his company.
"Yes," he said.
"Did you intend to cause her death?" Mr Brookie questions.
"No," the accused said.
Mr Brookie then asks the accused why he is now telling Det Sgt Settle this version of events.
"Because I want her family to know that it wasn't intentional," the accused 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."
Det Sgt Settle also wondered why the accused 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".
"There's a dead person in my room, I thought it looked terrible."
This article originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission