Grace Millane: investigators looking for a shovel

11 December 2018, 07:08 | Updated: 11 December 2018, 07:13

Grace Millane

Police in New Zealand investigating the murder of a backpacker from Essex are looking for a shovel believed to be connected to the inquiry.

22-year-old Grace Millane from Wickford went missing from a hostel in Auckland on December 1 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.

Detective Inspector 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 12 miles west of the city centre, on Saturday night.

Speaking at the scene on Sunday afternoon, Detective Inspector 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 1, 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 20, 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."