Grace Millane: family release emotional statement

12 December 2018, 08:11 | Updated: 12 December 2018, 08:14

Grace Millane

The family of a backpacker from Essex have said their "whole world turned upside down" after the disappearance of the 22-year-old.

The body of Grace Millane from Wickford was formally identified on Wednesday after she went missing from a hostel in Auckland, New Zealand, on December 1.

Officers said Ms Millane's family were "in the process of organising to take her home" as their investigation into the circumstances of her death continue.

Her family said: "Grace went off to travel the world in mid-October and arrived in New Zealand on the 20th November.

"By the amount of pictures and messages we received, she clearly loved this country, its people and the lifestyle.

"We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own OE (overseas experience)."

Calling the crime "heinous", the family also paid tribute to investigating officers for completing a "concise, stringent and thorough investigation".

They added: "We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes 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."

A 26-year-old man has been charged with Ms Millane's murder and he was remanded in custody after a court hearing in Auckland on Monday.

Police initially launched a missing person inquiry for the University of Lincoln graduate after her parents became concerned that she did not reply to birthday wishes sent on December 2.

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

The last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane was at 9.41pm on December 1, at the Citylife Hotel, when she was seen with a "male companion".

A week later, on December 8, police said they were treating the case as a homicide investigation and a day later a body was found in the Waitakere Ranges 10 metres away from the road.

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."