Body found in hunt for missing British backpacker in New Zealand

A body has been found by detectives searching for British backpacker Grace Millane near Auckland.

Det Insp Beard said investigators had "located a body which we believe to be Grace".

The 22-year-old from Wickford in Essex had not been seen since last Saturday.

"The formal identification process will now take place, however based on the evidence we have gathered over the past few days we expect that this is Grace," said Mr Beard at a press conference near the scene.

"Obviously this brings the search for Grace to an end. It is an unbearable time for the Millane family and our hearts go out to them."

Ms Millane’s brother, Declan, posted an emotional tribute to his sister on Instagram, writing "you are my sunshine, my only sunshine" underneath pictures of the pair together. 

A suspect is in custody and is expected to be charged with murder on Monday. He is due to appear at Auckland District Court.

The 26-year-old man was questioned by detectives after he was traced by police to an address in central Auckland on Saturday afternoon.

The announcement follows a review of CCTV footage, the forensic examination of a hotel where Millane was last seen on Saturday 1 December, and the discovery of a vehicle.

Millane was last seen entering the four-star CityLife Hotel at 9.41pm with a man.

Before the CityLife Hotel footage emerged, the last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane had been CCTV of her dressed for a night out as she left the Sky City casino complex at 7.15pm.

She was wearing a pink £5,000 prize draw wristband, suggesting she planned to return to the casino, just a few minutes from the hotel.

Millane’s family have been left "devastated" by the development, Auckland City Police Detective Inspector Scott Beard said.

"Sadly the evidence we have gathered to this point in the inquiry has established that this is a homicide," he told an earlier press conference. "Grace’s family have been advised of this development and they are devastated."

DI Beard added: "Obviously this means we are treating Grace’s disappearance as a homicide investigation. We still do not know where Grace is. We are determined to find her and return her to her family."

David Millane, her father, arrived in New Zealand on Friday morning and had fought back tears as he described his "lovely, outgoing, fun-loving, family-oriented daughter". He said she typically “bombarded” the family with messages and photographs.

Miss Millane, who completed a degree in advertising and marketing at Lincoln University, was on a yearlong trip and arrived in New Zealand on Nov 20 after a four-week group tour to Peru. Her family raised concerns after she failed to make contact for several days, including on her 22nd birthday last Sunday.

Investigators have been examining the scene at the hotel complex where Ms Millane was last seen with a "male companion".

Searches have also been carried out at the backpackers’ accommodation where she was staying.

Earlier on Saturday police released images of her necklace and watch and urged anyone who recognised the items to come forward.

"Several of her belongings, including her passport, are missing and police believe it is likely that Grace has these items with her," DI Beard said.

On Friday Mr Millane, a property developer, appealed to anybody who had seen or spoken to his daughter to provide details – “no matter how small” – to police.

“We are all extremely upset, and it’s very difficult at this time to fully describe the range of emotions we are going through," he said.

Ms Millane was staying at the Base Backpackers hostel and was last seen by her roommates there on Saturday. Her brother Declan Millane said most of her belongings had been left at the hostel.

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