Grace Millane’s Tinder date killer inadvertently led police right to him after posting a comment on her Facebook profile picture the night she vanished.
The 27-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, choked the 21-year-old to death while they were having sex in his apartment, a court heard.
Grace, from Wickford, Essex, was on a gap year adventure of a lifetime exploring the world after graduating from the University of Lincoln.
She was staying in Auckland, New Zealand, on December 1, 2018, when she agreed to meet the man and spent the night sipping cocktails, giggling and sharing kisses before dying at his hands.
The man stuffed her body in a suitcase coffin and buried it in a nearby wooded area.
Today he was found guilty of her murder.
Grace’s family became increasingly concerned when – the day after her date and her 22nd birthday – she failed to respond to messages wishing her a happy birthday.
Police quickly launched an investigation into the popular backpacker’s disappearance and began combing CCTV, as well as Grace’s social media profiles for clues.
A detective told the murder trial how she identified the man as a person of interest after spotting a message he had posted on Grace’s Facebook page.
At 9.29pm on December 1, just 11 minutes before it later emerged he left a bar with Grace and headed to his CityLife apartment, the man had written: “Beautiful, very radiant” under her updated profile picture.
Detective Diana Levinzon saw this and said she sent him a message saying police were looking for Grace and asked him to contact her.
The next morning he phoned her.
“He said that he had been with Miss Millane on the Saturday evening,” Det Levinzon told the court.
“He had come across her on Tinder and the last time he saw her was at 10pm.”
The man told another detective him and Grace had shared six or seven cocktails and left SkyCity casino about 8pm before saying goodbye and separating.
“We drunk a lot of cocktails at the burger bar and we were having good conversations,” he told the officer, saying the date had been “pretty good.”
He claimed he said goodbye to Grace with “a hug and a kiss on the cheek”, hoping to see her the next day to celebrate her 22nd birthday.
Afterwards, he claimed he made his way to meet a work colleague but ended up drinking himself into a stupor in a pub.
He woke up in his apartment the next day believing he had been carried in by the concierge.
But it was all lies.
The man and Grace had in fact carried on drinking at two more bars before entering his £190 a week hotel apartment.
He had initially told police he woke up the next morning alone, with “a bit of a vomit”.
He claimed he looked at his phone and saw it was 10am before he had tried to text Grace on Tinder the next day but she had unmatched him.
Later that morning he had gone for “a scotch fillet, medium rare, with mushrooms, chips and salad” for breakfast before having a nap and going to meet a friend from work, he told a detective.
But after being confronted with CCTV images of him wheeling a suitcase containing Grace’s body out his complex, the man’s web of lies began to unravel before he admitted the missing graduate was dead.
He said he had struggled to put her body in a suitcase bought for the purpose “because it just didn’t seem right.”
He continued to deny being responsible for her death, saying he had woken to find her lying dead on the floor, bleeding from the nose.
Asked in the interview by his own lawyer why he was changing his story, he said: “I want her family to know that it wasn’t intentional but I also want her family to have closure.”
He said he had invented his previous, bogus account, because: “I was still shocked and I apologise for misleading.”
He agreed to show officers where he had buried Grace’s naked body in a shallow grave in dense woodland 10 miles from the city centre.
During the trial, jurors were told Grace had asked him to choke her as they were having sex.
The man, throughout the trial, denied murder and insisted Grace’s death was an accident.