Grace Millane was just 22 when she was murdered by Jesse Kempson in Auckland, New Zealand. After his arrest, Kempson span a web of lies to evade justice for what he’d done
Grace Millane was a graduate from Essex who had travelled to New Zealand for a couple of weeks, after spending the last month and a half making her way through South America.
At 21 years old, she had a degree in advertising and marketing from the University of Lincoln and was taking the trip of a lifetime after three years of hard work.
But on December 2, 2018, when Grace failed to contact her family and reply to birthday messages, alarm bells rang and the backpacker was reported missing.
By 8 December, police investigating Grace’s disappearance had announced it was now a murder investigation. The following day, Grace’s body was found in a mountain range about 12 miles outside of Auckland.
Shortly after, 26-year-old Jesse Kempson was charged with murdering Grace. The pair had been on a Tinder date the night Grace was last seen alive, and the pair were spotted together in CCTV footage from the night.
Initially, Kempson tried to say Grace had died during consensual sex between the pair, but a jury convicted him of murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison and will serve a minimum of 17 years, in a case that sent shockwaves around the world and raised questions about the ‘rough sex’ defence in criminal courts.
Now, a new documentary reveals twisted Kempson tried to lie about the events leading up to Grace’s death – even trying to blame the 21-year-old for what happened – but gave away his guilt through his body language.
The Murder of Grace Millane: A Faking It Special, sees body language experts analyse Kempson’s behaviour during recorded police interviews as he spins a web of lies.
They determine the callous murderer tries to put the blame on Grace for her own death ’21 times’.
The experts say there were clear signs of deception from the beginning of his first police interview. Dr Cliff Lansley says he displayed three clear indicators of dishonesty.
” As soon as the word Grace is mentioned, he starts to tense up. We see this little tweak under the table of the legs coming together and squeezing his hands in between his thighs,” he said.
“The tension is reinforced by him now taking a sip of water. When we get anxious, our mouth goes dry. Often, we’ll swallow or lick the lips or take a sip of water when we hit an anxiety point.
“With the combination of dry mouth, hands under the table, clamping the legs, we’ve got three indicators that suggest anxiety and fear. This could be the fear of being caught in a lie.”
According to Dr Lansley, Kempson’s inability to add detail to his story, as well as a long pause before answering the cop’s question, further suggests his guilt.
“We’ve got a huge hesitation; this is a disfluency. He’s having to think hard about the question that would be simple for a truth teller but would be difficult for a lie teller,” Dr Lansley said.
“He can’t give detail about the evening, so the officer is on to him.”
Dawn Archer, professor of linguistics, adds Kempson’s quieter responses suggest he’s hiding something.
As the interview progressed, cops managed to nail lying Kempson on one particular detail he gave: that he and Grace went their separate ways at the end of the date and he went home and got drunk on his own, before leaving his flat at 10am the next morning.
But police had CCTV footage of Kempson leaving the flat at 8.01am – two hours earlier than Kempson said.
When they pressed him on his mismatched story, he started to unravel.
Dr Lansley said: ” He’s moved significantly back in his chair. His hands and legs are starting to tense under the table, and if you look closely at the skin tone on his cheek, it’s reddened up significantly.
“We’ve hit a hotspot here. Three indicators across two communication channels is enough for us to have confidence that this is deception and he’s faking it.”
As Kempson began to unravel and evidence against him started to stack up, police charged him with murder – and he quickly tried to change his story.
The depraved killer tried to suggest Grace had died accidentally as a result of rough sex gone wrong.
Analysing his interview, Professor Archer highlights a staggering 21 times Kempson tries to shift the blame onto Grace for her own death.
She said: “I’m calling it the blame shifting strategy, and I’ve found 21 examples.
“I would describe it as making Grace the acting initiator. So, she’s the one doing the asking and he’s the one doing the responding.”
She added Kempson tried to convince cops Grace had wanted rough sex, to absolve himself of guilt.
Despite spinning a fabricated version of events in his interviews, Kempson’s story was ultimately undermined by the evidence against him.
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In November 2019, he was convicted of the murder of 21-year-old Grace Millane.
After the verdict, Grace’s parents, Gillian and David, paid tribute to their “beautiful, talented, loving daughter.”
David said: “Grace was our sunshine, and she will be missed forever.”
The Murder Of Grace Millane: A Faking It Special is streaming now on discovery+