Grace Millane was strangled by her killer in her Auckland hotel room after a Tinder date. It was December 1st 2018 – the day before what would have been his 22nd birthday.
The next day, while the body of the backpacker lay closed in a suitcase, the man – who cannot be named for legal reasons – returned to the dating app.
The woman he met in an Auckland bar chose to tell her story in the hope that doing so could help warn others about dating security. Here, in his own words, he describes the time spent with Mrs. Millane’s killer.
‘It was really persistent’
We chatted for two weeks before we met, the conversation was light enough, fun enough.
He was an Australian, so we talked about Australian things. He seemed like a nice and normal boy and when we agreed to meet me I was happy to do it.
But maybe five days earlier it became really persistent. He would have sent me several times in a day and if I hadn’t answered he would have asked if something was wrong.
He kept trying to bring the date forward and he would have forgotten that I had told him I was busy.
It was unusual for someone to be so persistent. I have had guys before that are perhaps a little persistent but out of nervous excitement – a different kind of excited.
It was unusual that he could not wait until Sunday. It seemed very narcissistic.
‘He had put on weight’
He sent me a message around 9:00 am (the morning after Mrs. Millane’s murder) saying “good morning, how are you?” and again around 10:30. He said it was okay if I didn’t feel like going to the appointment, and it was when I sent messages and said I would meet him.
We went to Revelry. It is a very standard bar, very popular, many people go there. More than a night bar – I had never drunk there during the afternoon or day, but it’s open and wanted to go there.
It was larger than his photos showed; obviously he had put on weight. He had big distinctive eyes and was very, very clean. His clothes looked clean and he was well looked after.
I asked him many questions and he spoke. He tried to ask me some questions but they weren’t very thorough questions. I thought he was nervous.
I guess, since he had said one thing in the messages about where he worked and something different on the date, I started to feel a little uncomfortable.
‘The murder was in his head’
Since he was Australian, I asked him where he had met his friends and said that all his friends were police officers. He had met them in the bars and they had invited him to make a barbecue. He said his best friend was arriving as a crown court prosecutor, so he had this theme.
I think it was definitely in his head and I think he was, in a strange way, trying to elaborate something of what had happened, of what he had done, with me. It was a very strange vision of what someone’s brain does after doing something like that.
He was obviously thinking about cops, bodies, ways people could be killed, prosecutions, justice and the justice system, and he had just come out in a very strange way.
“It’s crazy how a boy can make a mistake”
We talked about the fact that he’s a friend of many cops. He said they were going through a difficult period due to the disappearance of bodies in the Waitākere Ranges (where Ms. Millane’s body would later be found). Police dogs only smell a meter and a half, so if they are buried deeper, they can’t find them.
I thought it was a little strange but an interesting fact.
We talked about poisonous snakes in Australia and it has become quite animated. It was quite out there.
Then he told me this really bizarre story.
He said, “It’s crazy how a boy can make a mistake and go to jail for the rest of his life.”
He told me about a boy he knew in Australia who had had consensual sex with strangulation with his girlfriend, but eventually accidentally killed her.
It was an accident, things went wrong and he was really upset because he loved her, but the boy was made for manslaughter and was sent for a long time.
What we do know now is that it could have been him to prove his story about me.
He could see that I was a little uncomfortable and tried to talk about more trivial things. I didn’t make a quick exit, I’m quite used to dealing with all kinds of people, but it was definitely strange.
‘My instinct has taken over’
Before saying goodbye, he said “my car is like this”. My car was on that same road but at that point, I felt uncomfortable and my instinct had given me a kick in telling me to walk in a different way.
He was also a lot older than me, so if something had gone wrong I knew I couldn’t defend myself.
In hindsight it was a good decision. It was my sense of intuition, my brain was saying “it was strange, it was strange”.
In hindsight it is really strange to think [Grace being dead in his room]. I don’t think it’s in the realm of what the normal human brain can understand.
It’s hard to look back and think it just happened to her. There is nothing I could have done, and now I know, but it is still very difficult to deal with that.
‘It made me go a little slower’
I think if it had been a date in the evening I could potentially have been a victim. I take enough comfort in the fact that I have my wits on me and I take online dating seriously enough.
And this is nothing against any woman who is willing to go home with someone on a first date.
I just want to tell the young women to take another step in your thinking when you’re on a date to see how well you know this person.
Since then, I’ve dated adorable and reliable men but thought “how much do I really know them”? It made me go a little slower, disclose less information.
I know that in modern dating it is quite common to give people your Instagram management, but you are giving people access to a lot of personal information.
It’s really dangerous and I just want to encourage people to step back. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back, taking it slowly and walking a little.
Alcohol has a great effect, it is part of the social fabric of dating and part of life these days, but still carries a huge risk. Women need to be truly aware of how much they are drinking in dating and unfortunately drinks are sometimes enriched.
We live in this world where people are still idealistic about what things should be on dates but accidents like these bring things back 10, 20 years, where women still have to grab the keys between their fingers or can’t leave a drink on the table.
We are not as developed as we think we are in areas like dating. Technology has anticipated us. I think people are as always.
I think with the advancement of technology we thought that we would become more refined, but we are the same but with the new technology.
I think the invention of dating apps is a wonderful thing and I wouldn’t want to live in a world without that, but I just want a world where women don’t always have to think about their safety.
As told to Doug Faulkner