The world was shocked and saddened by the news of 22-year-old backpacker Grace Millane's death at the hands of her Tinder date, Jesse Kempson, who later claimed in court that her murder had been a sex game - involving strangulation - gone wrong. Whilst a New Zealand jury took just five hours to deliver their guilty verdict against Kempson, his attempt at a defence sparked a wave of protests against the 'rough sex defence', resulting in a law change that prohibits its use.
Now, a new ITV true crime series called The Social Media Murders is set to re-examine Grace's tragic case. The series has been described by the channel as a "modern real life story-telling that puts the victim and their loved ones central to the narrative and draws on in the moment material harvested from social media accounts and mobile phone footage."
The first episode of the series, which airs on Monday 15 November, will explore Grace's murder, and speaks to detectives who worked on the case and helped bring her killer to justice. In the hour-long episode, viewers will learn how investigators tracked Kempson down through Facebook, and how he presented himself to police.
"We knew he was a liar," Detective Inspector Beard says in the documentary, "He was very comfortable and plausible with his lies. He was very believable and professional."
DI Beard also pointed out how Kempson had struggled to keep his story straight, first claiming he had met Grace for a date and gone their separate ways, but in a second interview alleging she had gone back to his apartment for "consensual violent sex."
"It was a complete contradiction to what he told us in the first interview,” DI Beard said. "His second interview was completely self-serving. He’s basically a narcissist, a sociopath. We worked out everything he said in that first interview was a lie."
"He strangled Grace for seven to 10 minutes," DI Beard added, "That's not rough sex. That's murder."
The name of Grace's killer was initially not allowed to be reported in the press, as he faced a further two trials involving other women (one of whom was a former partner), however, Sky News reports that the order was lifted by New Zealand's Supreme Court at the end of last year, after Kempson lost an appeal against his murder conviction and sentence.
Grace's killer is now serving a minimum of 17 years in prison for his crime. His most recent appeal for a reduced sentence was rejected.
In response to Kempson's request, the Court of Appeal issued a statement saying: "In their verdict, the jury showed that they were sure that if the applicant did not intend to kill the deceased, he at least intended to inflict bodily injury which he knew was likely to result in death.
"The most that could be taken from the applicant's account is that Ms Millane may have consented to the application of manual pressure to her neck for the purposes of sexual gratification. There is nothing in what the applicant told the police to suggest that she consented – or he believed she consented – to the infliction of bodily injury of a kind likely to kill her."
It added that for these reasons, albeit slightly differently expressed, the Court of Appeal was "of the view the argument failed 'as a matter of fact'... We see no apparent error in this conclusion."
The other two episodes in the series will focus on different crimes, each involving a young person who sadly lost their lives, in part due to apps or the online world. Other cases that will feature include that of Alex Rodda, an openly gay teenager who met an older farmer on Facebook, who groomed him and then later ended Alex's life.
Molly McLaren's heartbreaking murder will also feature – her ex-partner, Joshua Stimpson, used social media to track down Molly's whereabouts and stabbed her over 75 times in her car outside of a gym.
The Social Media Murders airs on ITV2 at 9pm on Monday 15 November.
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