British backpacker Grace Millane belonged to BDSM dating sites and allowed a former partner to choke her during sex, a court has heard.
An ex-boyfriend of the university graduate from Essex said they had used a system of safe words and signals to make sure she was never in danger.
A statement from the man, whose identity is protected, was read to the jury at the trial of a 27-year-old New Zealander accused of strangling Grace to death at the end of a Tinder date.
The defendant, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, says Miss Millane died accidentally during consensual sex at his apartment in Auckland last December after she asked him to put his hands on her neck during rough sex.
Miss Millane’s former partner said in a statement read to Auckland High Court: “When we researched it we knew the word was asphyxiation.
“Grace and I discussed keeping hands wide and on the side of the neck, never on the front.
“Grace and I would have a safe word most of the time which we had discussed, something like “turtle” or something ridiculous. Grace and I used a tapping practice too. If Grace tapped me three times then it would stop.
“Grace would tap out maybe one in four times.
“Grace would be sure to do this and I trusted that anytime it was too much for Grace she would do this. Grace and I were careful to discuss not only the physical but the psychological aspects to practising BDSM.”
Statements from police revealed that Miss Millane had been active on BDSM dating site Whiplr an hour before meeting the defendant outside a central city casino.
Defence barrister Ron Mansfield told the jury: “All the evidence shows that Miss Millane was a loving, bright, intelligent young woman and she was.
“That is her reputation and that should be her reputation and her memory at the start of this trial and at the conclusion if it.
“The fact that we need to discuss with you what she liked to do in the bedroom should have no impact on he reputation at all.”
But, he said: “It’s important that we are fully informed. It’s not the time for embarrassment or immaturity.
“If this couple engaged in consensual sexual activity which included pressure being applied to her neck with her consent and that went wrong, that is not murder.
“Death through this mechanism may thankfully be rare but it does happen and sadly it happened here.”
Mr Mansfield said the defendant admits Grace died from pressure he placed on her neck but said expert evidence was consistent with his account that it was consensual, not violent.
In a police interview, the trial heard last week, he said he only realised Grace was dead when he found her lying on the floor but admits then cramming her body into a suitcase which he buried in a shallow grave in the woods.
Mr Mansfield said his failure to call for help, disposal of Grace’s body and lies to police were due to panic.
“He may have thought he wouldn’t be believed,” Mr Mansfield told the jury, “but don’t prove him right.”
The court also heard that Miss Millane had drunk so much that night that her heart may have gone into a “terminal tailspin” when she was choked during sex.
Pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan, appearing as a defence witness, told the jury a combination of obstruction of the blood flow, pressure on her nervous system and being drunk meant she might have died quickly.
There were no signs of her having struggled and her plight “would not be obvious to a person nearby unless you know what you are looking for,” he said.
Defence barrister Ian Brookie said Miss Millane had drunk four mango cocktails, one tequila shot, two whisky cocktails herself and shared three half litre jugs of margheritas and sangria with her alleged killer during their night out.
Dr Garavan said the alcohol, in conjunction with the choking, was “an iceberg making its way into the shipping lane”.
“It very likely has become an important indirect player in causing death,” he said, explaining that being drunk could turn off a “safety valve” which would normally trigger someone to fight for breath.
Dr Garavan, who examined hundreds of photographs of Grace’s body, agreed the primary cause of death was asphyxiation, which he said would have required just one kilogram of pressure.
But he said the absence of deeper haemorrhages in the neck muscles, fractures or scratches to the skin “would favour consensual” choking.
The trial continues.
Police officer among six people killed in shootout in New Jersey | US News
Six people, including a police officer, have been killed in a shoot-out in New Jersey.
The officer was investigating a murder in Jersey City when he approached two suspects, one of whom opened fire and shot him in the head, police sources told NBC News.
The two suspects then fled in a rental van and holed up in a grocery store where a gun battle broke out, according to reports.
Both suspects and three civilians were killed, NBC News said.
All schools in Jersey City were put on lockdown as heavy, sporadic gunfire was heard over an hour.
The officer who was killed was a 39-year-old father of five children, according to officials.
A second officer was wounded after being struck in the shoulder by gunfire, and two others were injured by shrapnel.
SWAT teams, state police and federal agents responded to the incident, with officers blocking off an area which includes a school, a kosher supermarket and a hair stylist.
Authorities have said the incident is not believed to be a terror attack
US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Just received a briefing on the horrific shootout that took place in Jersey City, NJ.
“Our thoughts & prayers are [with] the victims & their families during this very difficult & tragic time.
“We will continue to monitor the situation as we assist local & state officials on the ground.”
Child prodigy, 9, quits university in row over graduation date | World News
A nine-year-old boy who was set to become the world’s youngest ever graduate has quit his university following a row over his graduation date.
Laurent Simons made headlines around the world after he was on track to complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Eindhoven’s University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The Belgian boy – who has an IQ of 145 – was due to complete his studies before the end of the year, which would have made him the world’s first ever graduate under the age of 10.
But the university has now told Laurent and his parents that the target is no longer feasible because of the number of exams he still needs to finish before his birthday on Boxing Day.
“Laurent is an exceptionally gifted boy, who is going through his studies at an unprecedented pace,” the university said in a statement.
The university added that it had offered “a still phenomenally quick scheme in which he would end his education mid-2020”.
But Laurent’s parents decided not to accept the offer and immediately ended his studies in Eindhoven.
His father Alexander Simons said: “Until last week everything was fine, and now suddenly they see a delay of six months.”
He said the exact date of Laurent’s graduation had never been an issue for the family but became one as they felt the university was reacting to their plans to move the boy’s further education abroad.
A programme director at the university had previously described Laurent as “maybe three times smarter than the smartest student we’ve ever had”.
Mr Simons said: “It’s very peculiar that this all comes right at the time when we were finalising our plans for Laurent’s PhD at a different university.
“There is a lot of interest in Laurent from universities he would be honoured to join… there is so much demand for Laurent, he is a unique project which everybody wants to be a part of.”
Laurent, who is inspired by Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, says he wants to research artificial organs and ultimately to develop an entire artificial body in his own laboratory.
Currently the youngest person to obtain a degree is American Michael Kearney, who achieved the feat in June 1994 at the age of 10 years and four months, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Greta Thunberg called a ‘brat’ by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro | World News
Brazil’s president has called climate campaigner Greta Thunberg “a brat” after she tweeted about the murder of two indigenous people in the Amazon.
Jair Bolsonaro questioned the coverage given to the 16-year-old Swedish activist after she shared a link to a story about the killings in Maranhao state.
“Greta said that the Indians died because they were defending the Amazon,” said Mr Bolsonaro.
“It’s impressive that the press is giving space to a brat like that.”
Thunberg promptly changed her Twitter bio to simply read: “pirralha” – the Portuguese for brat.
Accompanying the story, she wrote: “Indigenous people are literally being murdered for trying to protect the forest from illegal deforestation. Over and over again. It is shameful that the world remains silent about this.”
Her comments on Sunday came as the UN was holding its international climate change conference, where Brazil’s environmental policies have been criticised.
Mr Bolsonaro has been accused of not doing enough to protect the Amazon where large areas have been hit by major fires in recent months.
The controversial president argues conservation policies hinder economic development, has rolled back measures to limit deforestation and is accused of reducing efforts to fight illegal logging, mining and ranching.
A recent report said deforestation in the rainforest rose by almost a third last year, its highest rate for more than a decade.
The Amazon is considered key to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
Mr Bolsonaro’s comment is not the first time that the teenage campaigner has been on the end of a barbed comment by a world leader.
In September, President Trump responded to a video of Thunberg’s angry UN speech over climate change inaction by tweeting sarcastically: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Thunberg also hit back on that occasion, lifting the president’s words “very happy girl” comment for her Twitter bio.
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