BRIT backpacker Grace Millane was murdered during rough sex while on a Tinder date, a court heard.
But her alleged killer claims Grace asked him to choke her and she died accidentally.
Grace, 22, was last seen alive the day before her birthday last December in Auckland, New Zealand.
Her body, stuffed inside a suitcase, was found buried in woods near the city a week later. Yesterday the trial started of a man, 27, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Grace’s parents David and Gillian, of Wickford, Essex, watched as prosecutor Robin McCoubrey told the court she had been strangled until she bled through her nose.
He said her alleged killer then spent an hour researching how to dispose of a body, watched hardcore porn on his phone and took a series of intimate snaps. The next day he bought a case, cleaned his car and arranged a Tinder date with another lady.
Ian Brookie, defending, told the jury “an act designed to enhance their sexual pleasure went wrong and she died as a result”.
He said: “What’s important is that they were both keen to give it a go and they did.”
The defendant denies murder.
In his opening statement Justice Simon Moore took the time to remind jurors of their responsibility.
He said he wished to remind the seven women and five men of “the importance of not talking to anyone other than your fellow jurors” about the case.
“The other point I wish to repeat from Monday is the absolute prohibition of making your own enquiries on the internet,” he added.
“That, I hope, is the last you’re going to hear from me on that topic.”
Grace’s parents sat together in the public gallery during Mr Moore’s opening address.
David and Gillian Millane were accompanied by detective inspector Scott Beard into the New Zealand court.
Judge Moore said Ms Millane’s death had prompted vigils and marches across the country and insisted that any potential jurors must tell him if they had taken part.
He said: “No juror is allowed to be swayed by feelings of sympathy or prejudice.
“If you can’t give a promise that you will approach the trial with impartiality and even-handedness then you can’t be a juror.”
Mr and Mrs Millane spent part of the weekend being briefed by police and lawyers on the evidence they will hear in court.
They are expected to appear in the public gallery on Wednesday when Crown solicitor Brian Dickey will open the prosecution case at which details of Grace’s death will be heard in public for the first time.
The defendant’s barrister, Ian Brookie, will also outline the defence case.
Until now, the results of a post-mortem examination have been suppressed by the court.
Grace’s body was found buried in dense woodland west of the city a week after she and the man were captured on CCTV entering the CityLife hotel on Auckland’s main street hours after meeting for the first time at a bar nearby.
After taking a degree in advertising and marketing she had begun a solo gap year adventure weeks earlier, visiting Machu Picchu in Peru before arriving in New Zealand in mid-November.
She checked into a backpackers’ hostel the day before her fateful Tinder date.
Grace’s disappearance became one of the country’s highest profile criminal cases, even prompting an apology to the Millane family from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that,” Ms Ardern told them in an emotional speech.
“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.”
Candlelit vigils were held in towns and cities across the country in the days after her death was confirmed, attracting thousands of people, many of whom openly wept.
David Millane, who runs a family construction business with Grace’s two brothers, Michael and Declan, attended the event in Auckland as he organised flying her body back home.
He listened as local singer Lizzie Marvelly sang Amazing Grace to the crowd gathered just a short distance from the hotel where she is alleged to have been killed.
Back in Britain, Grace’s brother Declan posted a heartfelt tribute to his sister.
“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.”
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The close knit family issued a statement denouncing Grace’s killing as “heinous” but thanked the police team who discovered her.
“We would like to thank the people of New Zealand for their outpouring of love, numerous messages, tributes and compassion,” they said.
“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.”