Detective Inspector Scott Beard says the Millane murder wasn't difficult to solve - but it sparked some intense international media coverage. Photo: RNZ

The Grace Millane murder case wasn’t a who-dunnit – in fact it was easily solved. But it sparked intense public interest and international media coverage. What were the ingredients that caught the world’s attention? 

A media frenzy descended on the High Court in Auckland last week as a sentence was handed down to the killer of Grace Millane. Life imprisonment with 17 years non-parole, in case you missed it – which is not likely.

It had been like that throughout the case – some media outlets even choosing to live-blog the trial.

Millane’s disappearance in early December of 2018, the discovery of her body in the Waitakere Ranges a few days later, the vigils for her, and the trial, were extensively reported on.

Today The Detail looks at why the death of the British backpacker sent shockwaves around the world. 

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who oversaw the investigation, says it was not necessarily a hard case to solve.

“This particular investigation was not difficult. I really want to make it clear that right throughout the country we have investigators doing fantastic work on investigations which are a lot harder than this one,” he says. “This one … just gripped the country, gripped the media. It was intense, it was an international story and telling a story in the media day after day it’s getting sadder and sadder – people are tuned into it.”

The Detail also speaks to Dr Sarah Baker about the media intensity. She is a communications lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology.

She says the story was a “a perfect storm” of different factors that not only captured the attention of the nation – but beyond as well.

“It seems to have captured that mood of that ‘Me Too’ [movement], of women should not be victims and women should not be attacked; it also had the BDSM aspect, [and] the defence using it as a consensual act went wrong. But there’s also the grotesque aspect of the way the body was disposed of,” she says.

Baker says while what happened to Grace Millane was incredibly tragic, she wondered why another murder case the same week didn’t get the same kind of attention.

Chinese New Zealander, Xi Wang, 34, was murdered in her Flatbush home a few days after Millane’s body was found in the Waitakere Ranges.

Wang was holding her two-year-old son in her arms as her ex-partner brutally attacked her with a hunting knife, stabbing her multiple times all over her body, including her neck.

“I thought it was very interesting as to why this victim [Xi Wang] is not given the same coverage. Because when you think about it … you could equally argue how could this young immigrant woman not be allowed to be safe in New Zealand? She should have been safe; what’s going to happen to her child?” she says. “Unfortunately I think we’re not very good at dealing with certain members and groups of the population who don’t seem to get same kind of sympathy and empathy as other people.”

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

Jessie Chiang is the associate producer of The Detail podcast.

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