Asia-Pacific

UK backpacker's accused killer appears in NZ court

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A man accused of murdering British tourist Grace Millane in New Zealand has appeared in court, with the judge speaking of the Millane family's grief.

A judge has addressed the grieving family of British backpacker Grace Millane as the man accused of her murder in New Zealand made a first appearance in court.

The 26-year-old - who cannot yet be named - was taken into custody after police launched a homicide probe over the weekend and found Ms Millane's body in bush on the western outskirts of the city, about 25 kilometres from where she was last seen entering the central CityLife Hotel with a man on December 1.

It was the day before her 22nd birthday.

CCTV image from December 1 shows the last known sighting of Grace Millane whose 22nd birthday was the next day.
CCTV image from December 1 shows the last known sighting of Grace Millane whose 22nd birthday was the next day.
AAP

Appearing in Auckland District Court on Monday morning, the accused had an initial bid to keep his name secret rejected but an immediate appeal by his lawyer means he still cannot be publicly identified for some time.

Such restrictions are not uncommon in early court hearings in New Zealand.

No plea was entered and the man, remanded in custody, is expected to appear in the High Court, where murder cases are typically dealt with, in January.

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Jacinda Ardern apologises to murdered backpacker's family
Jacinda Ardern apologises to murdered backpacker's family

As the accused was led from the dock, a person in the public gallery yelled "scumbag".

During the appearance, Judge Evangelos Thomas told members of Ms Millane's family: "All of us hope that justice for Grace is fair, swift and ultimately brings you some peace."

"I don't know what we can say to you at this time. Your grief must be desperate," he said.

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Man accused of killing UK backpacker in NZ fronts court
Man accused of killing UK backpacker in NZ fronts court

Reports the pair met on Tinder

Court documents say the accused is a resident at the CityLife on Queen Street and is charged with killing the tourist between December 1 and 2. No occupation was listed.

While officers have said Ms Millane and the man had not previously known each other, they have declined to confirm reports they met through an online dating application.

Local media have reported the pair met on Tinder. 

Ms Millane, from Essex, was on the second leg of a year-long world tour after graduating from university. After visiting Peru, she arrived alone in New Zealand last month and had been in touch with family and friends nearly daily until her disappearance.

Police were due to formally identify the body found and conduct a post-mortem examination on Monday but earlier said they believed it was Ms Millane.

Killings by strangers are rare in New Zealand, where the number of annual homicides has been below 50 since 2010, and local residents and media have widely expressed shock over the case.

Tourism New Zealand, which described the death as "unimaginable", said travellers would be left concerned about what is usually considered a safe destination.

Meanwhile, Ms Millane's brother, Declan, paid tribute on social media, posting a series of photos of himself with her captioned with the lyrics to the song You Are My Sunshine.

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