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Grace Millane’s murderer appeals convictions relating to attacks and violations of two women

Jesse Shane Kempson

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Jesse Kempson is appealing convictions relating to attacks and violations of two women. File image.
Photo: RNZ

The lawyer for Grace Millane’s killer has told a panel of Court of Appeal justices two other women felt a moral drive to be the backpacker’s voice and exaggerate in separate trials that resulted in further convictions.

Already imprisoned for life, Jesse Kempson appeared via video link in the High Court at Auckland on Tuesday in a bid to appeal his convictions and sentences relating to two women he attacked and violated.

It is not the first time the offender has asked to appeal convictions and jail time handed down to him – two years ago he took an appeal over the Millane ruling to the Supreme Court and lost.

Media filled the public gallery at the appeal today to hear the arguments put forward.

Kempson was convicted of raping one woman on their first date and the sexual violation and repeated abuse of an ex-girlfriend.

Grace Millane murder trial: Guilty verdict details

Grace Millane was killed in December 2018 while travelling New Zealand.
Photo: RNZ / YouTube

He was serving a life sentence for murdering Millane and concurrent sentences relating to the two women who had come forward separately after they realised he was the man charged with killing the backpacker.

Kempson’s lawyer Ron Mansfield KC told the court the two women’s knowledge of the backpacker’s case provided “fertile ground” for exaggeration.

“In fact they had sought to exaggerate occurrences during their either long term or short natured relationship with him,” Mansfield said.

“She said I was Grace’s voice, I will be Grace’s voice. It’s very clear for both women the fact they were making a statement and hence a complaint as part of a police investigation was a very key feature of their complaint.”

Mansfield said the media attention took on a life of its own and that impacted the women’s complaints.

Ron Mansfield

Jesse Kempson’s lawyer Ron Mansfield. File image.
Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

He submitted there were a number of inconsistencies in both cases, rather than one specific inconsistency, and the combined effect of those cast doubt on the outcomes.

Crown prosecutor Fiona Culliney rejected that – saying the two cases were clear cut.

“One was in the context of a relationship where there was domestic violence, manipulative controlling behaviour and sexual violence, depraved sexual violence at that. The other was a one night Tinder date which culminated in the rape of a young woman in a motel room.”

Culliney said Kempson’s sentences for the offences were “not manifestly excessive”.

“Where cumulative sentences are to be imposed, the court really ought to stand back and look at the overall totality of the offending.”

Detective Inspector Scott Beard

Detective Inspector Scott Beard led the inquiry into Grace Millane’s homicide.
Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Detective Inspector Scott Beard, who led the investigation on Millane’s case, was among those in the public gallery.

He would not comment except to say he was keeping the victims and Millane’s mother up to date with the proceedings.

When the backpacker disappeared four years ago, the case attracted international attention and the discovery of her body in the Waitākere Ranges sent shockwaves around the world.

Following the murder trial in 2019, Kempson went on to face two further trials at the High Court at Auckland.

At the first trial in October 2020, Kempson’s ex-girlfriend – who cannot be identified – described in graphic detail the escalating physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse she suffered during their relationship.

He slapped and pushed her during arguments, drained her savings account of more than $10,000, and once held a knife to her throat before forcing her to perform sexual acts against her will.

The woman left the relationship after seven months and obtained a protection order against him.

Kempson was jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

In the second trial in November 2020, he was found guilty of raping another woman he had met on Tinder, and jailed for three-and-a-half years.

In her victim impact statement, read to the court by a support counsellor at Kempson’s sentencing, the woman said she was not the same person any more, but could now walk away from the assault knowing the man did not have any power over her.

The panel has reserved its decision.

The appeal was heard by Court of Appeal Justices Forrie Muir, Garry Miller and David Gendall.

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