The killer of British backpacker Grace Millane is launching an appeal against his conviction, even though his own defence lawyer calls his actions “inexcusable.”
The 28-year-old man, whose name cannot be released in New Zealand due to reporting restrictions, was handed a sentence of life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years at the end of his trial in February.
But at a court hearing in Auckland on Thursday, defence lawyer Rachel Reed said that, while her client had undeniably done the wrong thing by concealing her body, there were legal technicalities that entitled him to appeal against his sentence.
“I do not in any way seek to condone or excuse his actions after Miss Millane’s death,” Rachel Reed said. “I cannot and will not do so – they are inexcusable. This appeal is about whether the trial process miscarried.”
It took a jury just 5 hours to dismiss Jesse Kempson’s claim that Grace’s death was caused by a sex game that had gone wrong and find him guilty of murder.
But now Kempson’s legal team say that the issue of sexual consent had not been properly explained to the jury, and that they wren’t qualified to interpret evidence from experts.
Grace, who had been backpacking around the world, met her killer on Tinder in December 2018. They had drinks together and went to an hotel where they had sex, and he strangled her to death.
She would have turned 22 the following day.
Kempson then reportedly took photos of her naked body and watched hours of hardcore pornography while she lay dead in the room.
He put Grace’s body in a suitcase and later buried it in the Waitakere ranges, a remote bushland area outside Auckland. She was found eight days later.
Ms Reed argues that Kempson could have been so horrified by his own actions that he used the pornography to distract himself.
At the conclusion of the trial in February, Justice Simon Moore told the court Kempson was “cold-blooded” and showed no remorse. “Manual strangulation is a particularly intimate form of violence” he said.
“You didn’t ring an ambulance, or call the police, he continued, “instead you embarked on a well-planned and sustained and coordinated course of action to conceal any evidence of what had occurred in your room.”
Before his arrest, Kempson went on a Tinder date with another woman and told her that “a friend” had accidentally killed a woman during rough sex.
Ms Reed has said that there is evidence that Grace consented to being choked during sex and that Kempson’s sentence should be reduced to 12 years as a result.
“Consent shouldn’t be removed just because someone has died,” she said.