New Zealand police search for shovel in UK backpacker murder inquiry

Officers have received ‘hundreds’ of calls about case and are trying to establish timeline

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fought back tears on Monday (December 10) in Wellington as she apologised on behalf of New Zealand to the family of Grace Millane for their daughter's murder.

 

Police investigating the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane are looking for a shovel believed to be connected to the inquiry.

Ms Millane (22) went missing from a hostel in Auckland on December 1st and a body was found in the Waitakere Ranges on Sunday.

A 26-year-old man, who cannot be named, has been charged with murder and appeared in an Auckland court on Monday.

Det Insp Scott Beard addressed speculation about the case and said the University of Lincoln graduate’s body was found “intact” and said officers were looking for a long-handle shovel.

He said: “At this point we don’t know where this item is.

“It could be anywhere between the Scenic Drive and central Auckland areas.

“Someone may have come across it, picked it up and taken it home. We need to speak to that person or anyone who has seen it.”

Officers said they have received “hundreds” of calls about the case and investigators are trying to establish a timeline of events.

On Monday, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern gave an emotional apology to Ms Millane’s family, saying: “Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.”

“I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they would be experiencing and feeling right now.”

Detectives said they had identified a “location of interest” after the investigation led them to a spot on Scenic Drive, a country road about 20 km (12 miles) west of the city centre, on Saturday night.

Speaking at the scene on Sunday afternoon, Det Insp Scott Beard said investigators had “located a body which we believe to be Grace” about 10 metres from the roadside.

The last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane was at 9.41pm on December 1st, the day before her birthday, at the Citylife Hotel, when she was seen with a “male companion”.

Since arriving in New Zealand from Peru on November 20th, she had been in near-daily contact with her family.

Police received a missing person report on Wednesday and began a major search and public campaign that saw dozens of calls made to a helpline.

Ms Millane’s father, David Millane, flew to Auckland and made a public appeal for help finding his daughter, who he described as “lovely, outgoing, fun-loving (and) family-orientated”.

Her brother, Declan Millane, paid tribute by sharing pictures on social media of him and his sister, adding the lyrics of You Are My Sunshine.

He wrote on Instagram: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”–PA