Nov. 22 (UPI) -- A New Zealand jury on Friday found a 27-year-old man guilty of killing a British backpacker who disappeared a year ago while on a Tinder date in Aukland.
The jury deliberated for more than five hours before returning the unanimous guilty verdict as the man convicted of killing Grace Millane stood with his hands by his side. The killer, who cannot be named by court order, is to be sentenced Feb. 21.
Millane's body was found Dec. 9 in a bush area of Waitakere nearly a week after she went missing following a date with the accused on Dec. 1, the eve of her 22nd birthday.
The prosecution argued during the three-week trial that Millane was strangled to death while the accused said she died of a tragic accident, the result of rough sex at his apartment.
Millane's parents, David and Gillian Millane, wept following the verdict.
"The verdict of murder today will be welcomed by the members of the Millane family and friends of Grace," David Millane told reporters while fighting back tears. "It will not reduce the pain, the suffering we've had to endure for over the past year."
He said Grace Millane was "a beautiful, talented, loving daughter."
"Grace was our sunshine and she will be missed forever," he said. "She did not deserve to be murdered in such a barbaric way in her [overseas experience] year."
Grace Millane, 21, traveled to New Zealand last November from South America as part of a yearlong trip around the world following college graduation. She was last seen with the accused in CCTV footage walking arm in arm into his apartment building.
Her body was found over a week later stuffed into a suitcase and buried in a shallow grave.