Grace Millane, the British backpacker, died accidentally when consensual rough sex "went wrong", a court has heard.
The defence barrister for the alleged killer told jurors that Ms Millane had a history of engaging in choking during sex and had been a member of a BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) websites.
Police said that Ms Millane, 21, had been active on BDSM dating site Whiplr an hour before meeting the defendant outside a casino in Aukland’s city centre.
The defendant, 27, who cannot be named for legal reasons, met Ms Millane on a Tinder date. He says she died after she asked him to put his hands on her neck during rough sex.
He initially denied being involved in her death but later told police she died in his flat, where he "panicked" before cramming her body into a suitcase which he buried in a shallow grave in the woods.
Ron Mansfield, for the defence, told the jury: "If the couple engaged in consensual sexual activity and that went wrong, and no one intended for it to go wrong, then that is not murder.
Mr Mansfield said the trial’s focus is on “whether someone has committed a criminal wrong, not whether an individual or individuals think what they did was religiously, socially or morally wrong”.
The court heard evidence from an ex-boyfriend of the Ms Millane from Essex who said he had choked her during sex the pair used a system of safe words and signals.
"Grace would be sure to do this and I trusted that anytime it was too much for Grace she would do this. Grace and I were careful to discuss not only the physical but the psychological aspects to practicing BDSM," he said.
He added: “Grace and I discussed keeping hands wide and on the side of the neck, never on the front,” his statement said."
Dr Fintan Garavan, a forensic pathologist and toxicologist, told jurors Ms Millane’s injuries would "favour consensual" acts as there were no signs of a struggle. He noted that alcohol could “very well” have been a contributing factor in her death.
Mr Mansfield said that "if two people are inebriated, relatively inexperienced and don’t know each other too well".
Earlier in the trial one of them told the court: “He had grabbed my forearms and put all the pressure on my arms so I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move my arms. I started kicking, trying to indicate I couldn’t breathe. I was kicking violently. He would have felt me fighting … I was terrified.”
Ms Millane, from Essex, arrived in New Zealand on 30 November after travelling in South America and matched with the accused on Tinder on the same day. They went out on a date the following evening, and CCTV footage showed them returning to his apartment.
Over the course of the trial the jury has heard that after her death in his apartment on December 1 last year, the accused watched pornography and Google searched Waitākere Ranges, where her body was found buried, and ‘hottest fire’.
It also heard the suspect took seven photographs of Ms Millane that the prosecution says were taken after she died.
In his first police interview the accused said he and Ms Millane parted company at 8pm on the night she died, before admitting in his second police interview that she died in his apartment but claiming it was accidental.
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