Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

A police officer investigating the murder of British tourist Grace Millane stands at a crime scene along a section of Scenic Drive in the Waitakere Ranges outside Auckland, New Zealand, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Man accused of killing tourist appears in New Zealand court

  • Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A man accused of killing 22-year-old British tourist Grace Millane made his first appearance in a New Zealand court Monday.
The 26-year-old man stared at the ground while a judge addressed him during the brief appearance at the Auckland District Court. The man has not yet entered a plea on murder charges and the court has temporarily blocked his name from being published.
Millane’s father, David Millane, traveled to New Zealand last week after his daughter vanished, and Judge Evangelos Thomas addressed him and other family members.
“I don’t know what to say to you at this time, but your grief must be desperate,” he said, according to television station Three. “We all hope justice will be fair and swift and ultimately bring you some peace.”
The case has riveted people both in Britain and New Zealand.
Described by her father as fun-loving and family-oriented, Millane had been traveling in New Zealand as part of a planned yearlong trip abroad that began in Peru. She went missing Dec. 1 and failed to get in touch with her family on her birthday the next day, or on the days that followed, which alarmed them.
Before she vanished, Millane had been staying at a backpacker hostel in Auckland and left some of her belongings there. Detective Inspector Scott Beard said she met a man for a couple of hours in the evening before surveillance cameras showed them entering the CityLife hotel at about 9:40 p.m.
A week after Millane disappeared, police detained a man for questioning and later charged him with murder.
On Sunday, police found a body they believe is that of Millane in a forested area about 10 meters (33 feet) from the side of the road in the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. Police believe Millane’s body was taken to the area in a rental car that was later left in the town of Taupo.
The suspect’s lawyer, Ian Brookie, applied on Monday for name suppression on the basis his client needed it for a fair trial, an argument that Judge Thomas rejected on the basis of open justice. Brookie appealed, triggering the man’s name to be temporarily suppressed.
The man is scheduled to make his next court appearance Jan. 23.


Australia asks for answers on dissident missing in China

Updated 34 min 37 sec ago
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Australia asks for answers on dissident missing in China

  • Yang Hengjun went missing shortly after he returned to the southern city of Guangzhou last week
  • His disappearance prompted fears that he may be the latest victim of an increasingly broad dragnet by Chinese security services

SYDNEY: Australia is investigating reports a Chinese-Australian dissident is missing and may have been detained in his native country, officials said Wednesday.
Yang Hengjun — a novelist, former Chinese diplomat and democracy activist — went missing shortly after he returned to the southern city of Guangzhou last week, friends said.
When asked about Yang’s case, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “seeking information about an Australian citizen who has been reported missing in China.”
“Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment,” a spokesman told AFP.
The Australian government is believed to be in contact with Yang’s friends and family, as well as Chinese authorities.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Yang had returned to China with his wife and son on January 18, but never made a planned internal flight to Shanghai.
His disappearance prompted fears that he may be the latest victim of an increasingly broad dragnet by Chinese security services.
Australia recently expressed concern about China’s detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest in Canada of a senior Huawei executive.
Yang’s friend and journalist John Garnaut described him as “brilliant” and “a courageous and committed democrat.”
“This will reverberate globally if authorities do not quickly find an off-ramp,” he warned.
Yang had worked in the ministry of foreign affairs in Hainan province, but later left for Hong Kong in 1992 and the US in 1997 where he worked for the Atlantic Council think tank.
He later took up Australian citizenship — although Beijing does not recognize dual nationality — and wrote a series of spy novels and a popular Chinese-language blog.
Once described as China’s “most influential political blogger,” Yang went missing once before in 2011, describing his disappearance as a “misunderstanding” when he resurfaced days later.