Trial set to begin of man accused of murdering British backpacker Grace Millane

Grace Millane. Picture: PA/Lucie Blackman Trust
Grace Millane. Picture: PA/Lucie Blackman Trust
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Jurors have been chosen in the trial of a man accused of murdering 22-year-old British backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand.

Arguments in the five-week trial are due to begin on Wednesday in the Auckland court.

The name of the 27-year-old defendant is being kept secret for now by court order.

Ms Millane's body was discovered in a forest a week after she was last seen in Auckland city centre last December. She was travelling in New Zealand as part of a planned year-long trip abroad.

Her death struck a deep chord in New Zealand, which prides itself on welcoming tourists and where many young people take gap years themselves to travel abroad.

Hundreds of people throughout the country attended candlelit vigils after her death.

READ MORE: Devastated brother pays tribute to Grace

The country's prime minister Jacinda Ardern summed up the mood at the time in an emotional news conference. "There is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Millane, from Wickford in Essex, had been in New Zealand for less than two weeks when she went missing.

She had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and had left some of her belongings there. She was last seen alive on the evening of December 1 and did not contact her family the next day, her 22nd birthday, causing them concern.

Her father, David Millane, said last year that before she went missing, his daughter had loved her time in New Zealand judging by the number of pictures and messages she had sent.

He said in a statement: "We all hope that what has happened to Grace will not deter even one person from venturing out into the world and discovering their own overseas experience."

New Zealand's judicial system sometimes suppresses the names of people facing charges on the basis that they will not be able to get fair trials if they are named.

READ MORE: Body of missing backpacker found

But the Grace Millane case has highlighted the difficulty of courts maintaining secrecy in an age when information is quickly disseminated around the world.

Last year, some British media elected to name the man in defiance of the New Zealand court orders.

Search giant Google then emailed the name to some users who were signed up for alerts on what was trending in New Zealand, resulting in a rebuke from justice minister Andrew Little.

Google then suspended the service in New Zealand.