What actually happened between Grace Millane and Jesse Kempson?

June 18, 2024
5 mins read

For the past several years, one of the most talked-about cases in New Zealand was the murder of Grace Millane at the hands of Jesse Kempson in 2018. The case shocked New Zealand and England. while also becoming the focus of controversy for the violent nature of the crime, and Kempson’s defense.

Recently, the Grace Millane murder case awakened interest again after being featured in true crime documentaries and inspiring law changes in New Zealand. However, a lot is yet to be uncovered about this unfortunate case, including the shady past of the murderer, his sentence, and the shocking treatment that the local and international media gave to it.

So what happened in the Grace Millane murder case? Stay here to learn about it!

Before The Incident

The coverage of the sad case of Grace Millane’s murder has been thoroughly investigated and covered by the media, resulting in a lot of details being released to the public which otherwise wouldn’t have.

It all started on 1 December 2018, when 21-year-old British backpacker Grace Emmie Rose Millane went on a date in Auckland, New Zealand. By then, Grace had been in the middle of her gap year solo trip, having visited South America earlier before traveling to New Zealand, where she had been staying for two weeks already.


Grace’s date was the then-26-year-old Jesse Shane Kempson, who had been waiting for her at a bar in the famous Sky Tower. It’s unclear how long Grace and Jesse had been exchanging messages by then, though it’s known that their first contact was through a popular dating app.

The pair spent the following hours in several public spots, including the bar they met, a Mexican cafe, and a burger bar. Throughout the night, they were caught by surveillance cameras and neither seemed to be uncomfortable around each other.

At different points of the outing, Grace took pics of Christmas decorations and unknowingly sent a final message to a friend, telling them she had ‘clicked well’ with Jesse. At around 9:30 pm, the pair was seen entering CityLife Hotel, where Jesse had been staying. These details were uncovered in the case and later revealed by the local Sky News site.

The Search

Sometime after Grace entered Jesse’s hotel room, she was murdered by him. Her family and friends were the first ones to notice something wasn’t right, as she had uncharacteristically not answered the birthday messages they sent her on 2 December. Meanwhile, Jesse had been around the city shopping for a suitcase and a shovel, and going out with another woman he had also met through an app.

The search began when it was found out that she hadn’t returned to the backpacker hostel she had been staying in, though authorities initially affirmed that they didn’t suspect any foul play in the case. By 4 December, Auckland City Police requested people to inform of any sightings of Grace, meanwhile, her family began spreading the information around social media, and her father David didn’t take too long to fly from London to New Zealand to help search for his daughter.

In the meantime, police became suspicious of Jesse because they saw a message he had left on Grace’s Facebook, describing her as ‘beautiful’ and ‘radiant’. He was contacted and was meant to give an official statement later on, yet the suspicion around him increased when he was caught around the CityLife Hotel by an officer investigating the case. That led police to obtain the surveillance footage which had him and Grace entering the building together, immediately turning him into the main suspect.

The Case


On 7 December, Grace’s father David publicly requested any information which could lead to his daughter’s whereabouts, but by that time, Jesse was already being investigated for her murder and arrested the next day. The police changed their goal of finding her alive to find her body, which was located on 9 December in a bush area in the Waitākere Ranges, several miles away from Auckland.

The trial began in November 2019, though Jesse’s identity was suppressed through it to ensure his right to a fair trial.

Details about the murder were uncovered in court, with Jesse passing from denying the crime to accepting it under the argument that he had strangled Grace because she had asked him to while having sex. It was also revealed that after the murder, he had taken intimate photos of her body, watched pornography, cleaned up the crime scene, and later disposed of her body in a forest area he had searched on Google earlier.

The defense argued that Grace had consented to be strangled and also brought up her sexual preferences in the case. However, the prosecutors argued not only Grace’s vulnerability under the murderer’s physical build, but also the lack of evidence of consent. Jesse’s actions after murdering Grace were also considered ‘abhorrent’, despite the defense’s claims that he had hidden her body out of panic.

Sentence & Media Coverage

The trial ended on 22 November 2019 after three weeks of trial, finding Jesse Kempson guilty of Grace Millane’s murder,. The verdict was decided in late February 2020, when he was sentenced to life imprisonment, though his non-parole period was decided at 17 years minimum. He appealed his conviction, with his hearing starting in August but dismissed in December of that year.

Throughout the trial, Jesse’s identity remained suppressed and even extended during his appeal, before a court dismissed his request. This resulted in the revealing of his identity along with the disclosure of the crimes he’d committed before Grace’s murder, which included rape, violence, and murder threats to two other women, all of which he was found guilty of. Despite the ongoing suppression of Jesse’s name by New Zealand’s law, his identity was revealed by international outlets, especially British ones.

According to a report by the BBC, before Grace’s murder, a woman had been threatened by Jesse but couldn’t file charges because of the lack of cooperation of New Zealand authorities.

As well, the day after Grace’s murder, Jesse went out with another woman he had contacted through a dating app. The woman described him as ‘very persistent’ and after meeting up, told her a story about a friend of his who had killed their girlfriend through strangulation, after which she ended the outing.

The Aftermath

The murder of Grace Millane was widely covered by New Zealand and international outlets. It also caused controversy due to Jesse’s defense, as his argument of ‘rough sex gone wrong’ was considered a re-victimization of Grace, especially given the morbid headlines which the topic prompted in the media.

This raised alerts about this defense being used to justify violence towards women, leading people in the UK to request a ban on this defense.

Grace’s mother Gillian started Love Grace, an organization which supports women victims of sexual violence by giving away toilet supplies, on top of raising funds for similar organizations. The organization was recognized with an Officers of the Order of the British Empire for their charity labor.

Overall, the murder of Grace Millane was not only horrific, but also eye-opening about sexual violence towards women worldwide.

Daniel Wanburg

As the Managing Editor at Net Worth Post, I lead a talented team in delivering compelling content on the lives and achievements of influential figures. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, I oversee the production of insightful biographies that resonate with our audience. My role involves not only managing the editorial process but also conducting research, crafting engaging narratives, and ensuring the accuracy and quality of our publications.

At NetWorthPost, we strive to provide our readers with in-depth profiles that offer valuable insights into the worlds of business, entertainment, and beyond. Through meticulous research and captivating storytelling, we bring to light the remarkable journeys and successes of individuals who inspire and captivate us.

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