'Naive and trusting' Grace Millane gave list of fetishes to man on BDSM dating site, court hears

20 November 2019, 01:22 | Updated: 20 November 2019, 09:44

British backpacker Grace Millane gave a list of her sex fetishes to a man she met on a BDSM dating website, her murder trial has heard.

Just months before she was killed during a Tinder date, the university graduate from Essex spelled out exactly what she wanted to learn, including bondage, electrical nerve stimulation and "breathplay" using a gas mask.

The man gave a statement to New Zealand police which was read to the jury at Auckland High Court after they were told he has refused to cooperate with defence lawyers.

He described Miss Millane, 21, as "naive and trusting" after she contacted him via the Whiplr website for BDSM enthusiasts in the summer of 2018, just before she left Britain on a worldwide adventure.

She told him her interest in BDSM began with a past boyfriend but he said she was still quite naive and, unusually, used her full name on another messaging app they had used.

The man, whose identity is protected, told police: "Grace told me she was interested in everything to do with BDSM and her main area of interest was restraint.

"In Grace's Whiplr profile she outlined her sub kink interests as: giving full control, sounds, accessories, restraints, control and massages.

"I can't remember discussing any specific BDSM interests with Grace in detail but I think she was into Daddy Dom.

"I think Grace was at an explorative stage and quite open to suggestions. Grace seemed quite keen to know what things were and what sort of things I owned pertaining to BDSM."

They had planned to meet for a drink but she had changed her mind, he said.

"BDSM probably became more popular after 50 Shades of Grey but that is more the soft end of BDSM," he said. "I don't recall if Grace ever mentioned 50 Shades of Grey. I felt like Grace was more naive and trusting in the BDSM area.

"When you're using these apps, the users do not have to provide any details at all so you have to be aware. The users could be any undesirable person online and Grace seemed to have a naivety."

The court has already heard from Miss Millane's former partner, who said they had an established practice of choking using safe words and "tapping out" which meant it had never put her in danger.

A 27-year-old man is on trial accused of Miss Millane's murder on 1 December last year, the night before her 22nd birthday, after a night of heavy drinking which ended in his hotel room.

The man, whose identity is also protected, denies murder, claiming Miss Millane died accidentally after asking him to apply pressure to her neck.

In a police interview, however, he said he was unaware she had died until he found her on the floor the next morning.

He admits disposing of her body in a suitcase he buried in the woods.

The jury today also heard from sexual culture and pornography expert Professor Clarissa Smith from the University of Sunderland.

Speaking via a video link, she said erotic asphyxiation, like other forms of BDSM, was becoming a more mainstream interest for young people following the 50 Shades of Grey book, which has sold 125 million copies.

She described it as "a form of play that practitioners call edge play".

"It makes the heart race, makes the skin tingle, had very significant elements of feeling powerless and offers lightheadedness and exhilaration."

But she added: "It's very important that consent is given."

She told the court younger women were increasingly open about sexuality and saying what they wanted and that "hook up" apps were part of "a gamification of dating and sexuality".

"We are no longer living in the era of 'lay back and think of England'," she said.

Another witness told the trial he and Miss Millane had slept together the night before she died after meeting at the backpackers' hostel where she was staying.

The man, whose name is suppressed, said they went to McDonalds before going to his house to watch a movie, then had sex.

He said he may have held her around the neck during sex but not at her request, adding that it was something he had "potentially" done because it was a habit of his "because girls usually enjoy it".

The defence has closed its case, with the defendant choosing not to give evidence. Prosecution and defence will give closing speeches on Thursday before the judge sums up on Friday.

The trial continues.