A man has appeared in court charged with the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, as New Zealand’s prime minister spoke of an “overwhelming sense of hurt and shame”.
The suspect, dressed in a blue boiler suit, was told he was being remanded in custody until his next appearance on 23 January.
As the 26-year-old was led out of the courtroom, a person in the public gallery yelled: “Scumbag.”
The suspect was listed on a charge sheet as residing at the Citylife Hotel on Queen Street in central Auckland.
The last confirmed sighting of Ms Millane was at Citylife Hotel at 9.41pm on Saturday 1 December, when she was seen with a “male companion”.
Ms Millane’s body was found in an area of bush in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges yesterday.
A post-mortem has been carried out, police said, but they added the results of the examination will not be released.
The man’s appearance at Auckland District Court was brief and he has yet to enter a plea to the charge of murdering the British backpacker between 1 and 2 December.
The suspect’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, applied for name suppression, saying it was needed for a fair trial.
Judge Evangelos Thomas rejected this argument on the basis of open justice.
But Mr Brookie said he would appeal, meaning the man’s identity cannot be revealed until the appeal is heard.
Ms Millane’s father David is in New Zealand and, along with other family members, was in court as Judge Thomas addressed them.
In comments reported by Radio NZ, the judge said: “I’d like to acknowledge the presence of Grace’s family.
“I don’t know what we say to you at this time.
“Your grief must be desperate.
“All of us hope that justice for Grace is fair, swift and ultimately brings you some peace.
“That will not be happening today, there will be no judgment today. It is important there is no judgment today.
“There will be, in all likelihood, a number of procedural issues we need to deal with today.
“Those are all part and parcel of a process that has judgment as its end goal, not its starting point.”
Following the court appearance, prime minister Jacinda Ardern had a message for Ms Millane’s family.
She said: “Firstly, I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they will be experiencing and feeling right now.
“From the Kiwis I have spoken to there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality… especially to those who are visiting our shores.
“On behalf of New Zealand, I would like to apologise to Grace’s family, your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn’t and I’m sorry for that.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her father David who is in the country, and her mother who cannot be here, and her wider family and friends and loved ones.”
Ms Millane’s death comes just weeks after she had left her home in Wickford, Essex, to see the world.
After more than a month in South America, she had arrived in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, on 20 November.
She was last seen entering a central city hotel with a man more than a week ago and police were called after her regular pattern of communication with family was stopped.
Detectives have released images of a red Toyota Corolla hatchback and have asked anyone who saw the vehicle on Monday 3 December between 6.30am and 9.30am to contact them.
The car was rented in central Auckland on Sunday and later found in Taupo, in the centre of the North Island.