What Happened to Grace Millane? Details on Murdered British Tourist

Kathryn Underwood - Author
By

Dec. 27 2022, Published 2:51 p.m. ET

Worldwide, the public heard of Grace Millane when she disappeared in early December 2018. The young university graduate from Great Britain was on a trip around various parts of the world and when she suddenly disappeared in New Zealand. Here's what happened to Grace Millane.

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Dec. 1, 2018 was the last date that Millane was seen alive. The following day, Dec. 2, was her birthday, and when Millane didn't respond to her family's birthday wishes, they grew concerned, as CNN reported. They reported her missing three days later, prompting a police search and response. A documentary has been made about her case, The Social Media Murders, on ITV.

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Source: Getty

New Zealanders held a vigil in remembrance of Grace Millane days after her body was recovered.

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Who was Grace Millane?

Millane was from Essex in Great Britain and was a recent graduate of the University of Lincoln. She had been traveling via backpack following her graduation from college and had already spent six weeks in South America. Millane planned to spend two weeks in New Zealand, and arrived on Nov. 20, 2018. She had sent a number of messages and photos to her family, which stopped on her birthday on Dec. 2.

Following her disappearance, authorities learned that Millane had met Jesse Kempson at a bar in Auckland, New Zealand on the night of Dec. 1. Authorities learned she hadn't returned to her hotel that night, and by Dec. 8, the case had turned to a homicide investigation.

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Also on Dec. 8, police took Kempson into custody in connection with Millane's disappearance. On Dec. 9, Millane's body was discovered in a wooded area west of the city. Police investigated the rental car that Kempson had leased on Dec. 2–3. They also searched for a shovel believed to have been used somehow.

A photo of Grace Millane at a police press conference
Source: Getty Images
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Millane's killer was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

Millane met Kempson through a dating app, and the two were seen in public together the night of Dec. 1. She was missing for over a week before her body was found, and Kempson was identified as the suspect in her murder. The two had gone back to Kempson's hotel.

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Kempson's trial began in November 2019, and he entered a not guilty plea. A major part of Kempson's defense while on trial for Millane's murder was that the crime had been an accident that took place as a result of rough, consensual sex. The cause of her death was found to be strangling, which the defense argued wasn't intentional.

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A jury deliberated for four hours before coming to a unanimous guilty verdict. Kempson had killed Millane, then put her body into a suitcase and hid it in a wooded area. Kempson was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 17 years behind bars before any possibility of parole.

People left flowers by the woods where Grace Millane's body was found.
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The trial of Grace Millane's killer brought up several important issues.

The trial Millane's murder brought up a number of issues to the public. One was the "missing white woman syndrome," which indicates that cases of disappearances of white, well-to-to women are given more publicity and police attention than those of minorities.

Name suppression also became an issue, as Kempson's name wasn't going to be released based on New Zealand law. However, foreign media outlets didn't keep his name quiet, which some argued could have unfairly influenced the jury in Kempson's trial.

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Jesse Kempson at his sentencing
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Victim-blaming was a part of the defense strategy as well, with the defense attorneys claiming Millane's death was the accidental result of consensual sexual activity. Millane's alcohol consumption was also presented as a contributing factor in her death.

After his conviction for Millane's killing, Kempson was also convicted of a variety of crimes against two other women. Those crimes included sexual violation, assault with a weapon, and threatening to kill. He was convicted of raping another women he had met on Tinder, in an incident that happened just months before Millane's murder.

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