'Sociopath' Who Killed Tinder Date Strangled Her for up to Five Minutes, Court Hears

The British backpacker who was allegedly killed by a man she met on the Tinder dating app had been strangled for up to five minutes, a forensic pathologist has told a court in New Zealand.

Grace Millane was found dead in a forested area near Auckland a week after she disappeared in December last year. The 22-year-old, from Essex, England, had been traveling through New Zealand as part of a trip abroad after graduating from university.

A 27-year-old man, whose name is being withheld for legal reasons, is on trial for her murder. His defense team claims Millane died by accident in a consensual sexual encounter gone wrong.

But forensic pathologist Dr. Simon Stables gave evidence on Tuesday saying Millane's cause of death was due to sustained "pressure to the neck," Sky News reported. He said the pressure would have needed to be applied for four or five minutes to cause the significant bruising she sustained.

"It's not going to happen with a gentle touch," he told the jury. "It's got to be with some force. It takes quite a bit of effort."

Earlier, the court heard testimony from a woman who went on a date with Millane's accused killer a month before her death and said she was terrified she was going to die during a sexual encounter.

The woman, who also matched with him on Tinder, told the court she had agreed to meet for a drink at a bar in Auckland's central business district, but instead ended up at his apartment, The New Zealand Herald reported.

She told the court she "couldn't breathe" when the man sat on her face and pinned down her arms as she performed oral sex.

"I couldn't move my arms, I couldn't breathe, so I started kicking—trying to indicate I couldn't breathe," she said, according to The Herald. "There were so many thoughts running through my mind... This can't be the way I die... I started thinking about my family and my friends."

She also described him as a "sociopath" and claimed he had told her he was dying of cancer to gain sympathy, according to the newspaper.

Another woman who matched with the accused killer early in 2018 told the court that she didn't feel comfortable meeting him after he mentioned he enjoyed strangulation during sex, The Herald reported.

He had wanted to go on a date with her the same weekend he met Millane, but she said she "didn't feel comfortable meeting him with some of the things he wanted me to do."

Prosecutors in the murder trial last week said the man went on a date with another woman while Millane's body was stuffed inside a suitcase in his hotel apartment.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey said CCTV cameras filmed Millane and the man at a burger joint, a Mexican cafe and then a bar on December 1, a day before her 22nd birthday, RNZ reported.

McCoubrey said the morning after Millane was killed, the man took intimate photographs of her body, watched pornography, hired a car and bought a suitcase that he stuffed Millane's body into, according to RNZ.

The BBC reported that the accused killer conducted online searches for "hottest fire," "flesh-eating bird" and "are there vultures in New Zealand?" He also searched for "Waitakere Ranges"—where Millane's body was later found.

He also messaged another woman to confirm a date he had earlier organized on Tinder and mentioned how rough sex gone wrong could lead to someone being accused of manslaughter.

"He doesn't seem concerned by the presence of a dead body in his apartment but goes up the road to have a date with another woman at a bar," McCoubrey said, according to RNZ.

Defense attorney Ian Brookie argued that Millane's death was accidental and that the man had restricted her breathing with "her knowledge, encouragement and only with the goal of sexual pleasure in mind," RNZ reported.

The trial continues.

Grace Millane
A photo of British backpacker Grace Millane during a vigil at Civic Square on December 12, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images