- The father of 22-year-old backpacker Grace Millane took part in a blessing ceremony on the site where her body was found in New Zealand.
- Her body was formally identified on Wednesday, and her family will return her to the UK this weekend.
- David Millane said that Grace was “forever a Kiwi” and that he hopes “what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world.”
- Police are still appealing for information about a red shovel they believe was used in the murder.
The father of murdered 22-year-old backpacker Grace Millane took part in a Maori ceremony at the place where her body was found in New Zealand.
David Millane flew to New Zealand on Friday and took part in a traditional Maori blessing ceremony where her body was found on alongside Millane’s uncle and members of the New Zealand Police. The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.
He described it as “a lovely and peaceful experience” in a statement from the family issued by the police.
Millane, from the town of Wickford in southeastern England, was last seen in a hotel in Auckland on December 1. Police found her body on Sunday. A 26-year-old man charged with her murder appeared in court on Monday.
Millane’s body was formally identified on Wednesday, the police said. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said that her body had been returned to her family, who are preparing to take her home this weekend.
Thousands gathered across New Zealand in candlelight vigils for Millane on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Grace is ‘forever a Kiwi’
Millane’s father issued a statement on behalf of her family on Wednesday, where he thanked the people of New Zealand for their “outpouring of love, numerous messages, tribute, and compassion.”
“Grace was not born here and only managed to stay a few weeks, but you have taken her to your hearts and in some small way she will forever be a Kiwi,” he said.
Millane had been travelling around the world after finishing her studies at the University of Lincoln.
“We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world,” David Millane said.
He thanked the police for their “most concise, stringent and thorough investigation.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had apologised to Millane’s family on Monday.
“From the Kiwis I have spoken to there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality … especially to those who are visiting our shores.”
Appeal for Information
Police are looking for a shovel they believe was involved with the murder.
Beard said they were searching an Atlas Trade “hardwood long handle, round mouth shovel,” and released a picture of a similar shovel.
Beard said: “Police would like to hear from anyone who may have found this item anytime after Monday 3 December.”
He did not say how the police believe it was involved in the killing.
He repeated his call for information on Wednesday, saying: “We still need to hear from anyone who may have come across the shovel or anyone who has picked it up and taken it home.”
The judge in the case, Evangelos Thomas, said in court on Monday that there would be no judgment that day, though he said he hoped that “justice for Grace is fair, swift and ultimately brings you some peace,” Radio NZ reported.
“There will be in all likelihood a number of procedural issues we need to deal with today. Those are all part and parcel of a process that has judgment as its end goal, not its starting point,” he said.
The man who appeared in court cannot be named due to local law.
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