The man accused of killing British backpacker Grace Millane was described today as a ‘blatant liar’ by a former flatmate as he appeared in court on a murder charge.
Jesse Kempson, 26, once shared a flat with three journalism graduates in Auckland and he was asked to leave after just six weeks after his three female flatmates became ‘uncomfortable’ when he was present.
One of the flatmates who asked to be identified by her middle name Rose now lives in London, but said she was sickened when she learned of the accused man’s identity.
‘It almost made me ill’ she said. ‘I remembered him immediately from when we all shared a flat together in Auckland in 2016.
‘He was a fantasist and a liar. I caught him out big time and it made the three of us very unhappy that he was in our home.’
Suspect: Jesse Kempson, seen here in his Facebook profile image (left), and playing softball in 2010 (right), was remanded in custody accused of murdering Grace Millane
Charged: Kempson, 26, is pictured here alongside a policeman on his way to court on Monday, in an image obscured in accordance with New Zealand law
Ms Millane had been travelling New Zealand when she disappeared on December 1. Her body was found more than a week later, on Sunday morning
Rose, 23, said Kempson arrived at their flat in Auckland after responding to a flat share advertisement and paid the first month rent in advance as was required.
‘He told us that his parents were big in buying up property and restaurants in Australia and we believed him’ she said.
‘But then he later told us that he was negotiating to buy a restaurant in The Viaduct in Auckland. But I knew that had to be a lie.
‘The restaurant is owned by my family and I knew my relative wasn’t selling up.’
Rose said this startled her and the other two women and they felt more uncomfortable when Kempson would drink heavily, although he was never aggressive or made any sexual advances towards them.
‘His chest would come out and he would be brash. His persona would change completely and he would be speaking with a different voice.’
The three women, who had not asked for references prior to welcoming him into the flat, said after being asked to leave, Kempson said his mother had died and he needed to return to Australia anyway.
‘Beautiful and radiant’: Kempson, using his first and middle-name on Facebook, described Ms Millane as ‘beautiful and very radiant’ just hours before she disappeared
The body of Grace, 22, pictured right with her family, was discovered on Sunday afternoon as police arrested a 26-year-old suspect over the crime
The remains of Ms Millane were found some ten yards from the road. Pictured: A forensics officer at over the scene on Sunday
‘We later found out that she was alive and he stayed on in Auckland.
‘He left without paying a month’s rent he owed us. And two days later he came back into the flat while we were out.’
Rose said a bigger shock came when she visited her family restaurant and found Kempson there.
‘He was working as a bar man and I could see he was a fantasist who built his life on small connections he made.
‘By working in my relative’s restaurant, he had created this story about buying it for his family. But he was just lying.
‘When he saw me, he just walked out and nobody heard from him again.
‘I feel so sorry for Grace. It made me feel sick this morning when I heard.’
Eerie: Ms Millane’s final Instagram post was a harrowing watercolour painting of a multicolour skull
The post was captioned ‘Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead’ and was uploaded just a few weeks before she went missing
It comes as it was revealed earlier today that Grace Millane posted a chilling final picture of one of her works of art containing a reference to ‘death’ just weeks before her murder in New Zealand.
The backpacker, 22, from Essex, posted a picture on her Instagram account of a watercolour human skull with the caption: ‘Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead’.
The quote is a reference to the theme song of the hit TV show, Pretty Little Liars, which follows the lives of four girls after their friend vanishes.
Just weeks after uploading the cryptic social media post Grace vanished from her hotel in Auckland and was found dead on Sunday in the countryside outside the city.
Grace, who was a keen artist having studied advertising, posted the image on her page Art by Millane – and it has since received thousands of likes and shares.
The scene where the body of Ms Millane was found by New Zealand police in the Waitakere Ranges outside Auckland
Last seen: Ms Millane is seen at three locations in central Auckland on December 1st, a week before her body is found
Kempson appeared in court in Auckland on Monday morning charged with her murder on December 1-2.
According to New Zealand news website Stuff.nz, Kempson was due to meet another woman on a Tinder date on the evening Millane disappeared.
The 30-year-old woman, identified only as Rose, said she struck up a friendship with the murder suspect over the dating app and had organised to meet him for a drink.
‘I’m quite upset,’ the woman said, ‘Obviously angels were watching over me.
‘At the time it was just legitimately all normal. The only weird thing I thought about him was that he asked me for feet photos and of me with my high heels on.’
Rose said she ended up cancelling her plans to meet him on the night of Millane’s disappearance because she was busy. But she kept messaging him until Thursday last week when he suddenly went quiet.
Yesterday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made an emotional apology on behalf of the country to Grace’s family.
An emotional New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologised on behalf of her nation to Grace’s family
Addressing Ms Millane’s family, she said: ‘I cannot imagine the grief of her family and what they would be experiencing and feeling right now.
‘My thoughts and prayers are with her father David, who is in the country, her mother Gillian, who cannot be here, and her wider family, friends and loved ones.
‘From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality, on our manaakitanga [a Maori term meaning kindness and generosity] especially to those who are visiting our shores.’
Her voice cracking with emotion, the PM added: ‘So on behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologise to Grace’s family. Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.’
It remains unclear how the suspect and Ms Millane met or what the possible motive for the killing might be.
Police took Kempson into custody earlier this week and have charged him with Ms Millane’s murder.
David Millane, Grace’s property developer father, broke down in tears as he begged for help finding his backpacker daughter after she vanished in New Zealand, days before her body was found
The suspect cannot currently be named in New Zealand or on social media due to a court order, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Detective Inspector Scott Beard said Ms Millane’s body was found near Scenic Drive, which leads through the Waitakere Ranges, a popular parkland west of Auckland.
She was discovered about ten yards from the side of the road, hidden in bushland, with her body believed to have been taken there in a rented red Toyota Corolla.
The red Toyota was then rented out again to persons unrelated to the investigation, and it was eventually seized by police some 190 miles from Auckland, in the small tourist town of Taupo.
TIMELINE OF THE DISAPPEARANCE AND SUSPECTED MURDER OF BACKPACKER GRACE MILLANE
November 20: Grace Millane arrives in New Zealand from Peru. She had been in nearly daily contact with her family.
November 30: Ms Millane posts her last tweet saying ‘I think travelling has changed me I just brought some blue jeans.’
December 1: Ms Millane is seen on CCTV leaving a hotel in Auckland at 7.15pm. Jesse Kempson describes Ms Millane as ‘beautiful and very radiant’ in a comment on a Facebook photo at 9.29pm. She is seen at the CityLife Hotel, in Auckland, with a ‘male companion’ at 9.40pm.
December 2: The 22-year-old’s birthday. Her family do not hear anything from her, which is unusual behaviour. Just before noon, a red Toyota Corolla is hired from a central Auckland rental firm.
December: 3: The Toyota Corolla is returned, and eventually rented out again to persons unrelated to the investigation
December 5: Her worried family file a missing persons report and pictured of Ms Millane are shared extensively online.
December 7: Police said they had received dozens of calls to a hotline and more than 25 staff were working on the case, trawling through hours of CCTV footage to trace her movements. After arriving in Auckland her father, David Millane, makes an emotional plea for help finding his daughter. Police reveal they have spoken to the male companion and he is a person of interest. The man was not taken into custody and police said there was no evidence of foul play.
December 8: A 26-year-old man is taken into custody at a central Auckland address by police. The red Toyota is located in the town of Taupo
December 9: Police announce they are searching an area on Scenic Drive, near the Waitakere Reservoir. Shortly after 4pm local time (3am GMT), police find a body believed to be Ms Millane in vegetation around ten yards from the road. A 26-year-old man is charged with her murder.
December 10: Jesse Kempson, 26, appears in court in Auckland. He does not enter a plea.