The hymn Amazing Grace opened the funeral for British backpacker Grace Millane, who was killed during her OE in New Zealand.
Millane, from Wickford, Essex, disappeared on December 1 after last being seen in Auckland’s central city. Her body was found a week later in the Waitākere Ranges and a 26-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been charged with her murder.
Her funeral service took place at 11.30am on Thursday (Friday 12.30am NZ time) at Brentwood Cathedral in the United Kingdom, on what her brother Declan Millane described as “Grace’s Day”.
It opened with Amazing Grace, and included a eulogy from her dad David Millane, the BBC reported.
Friends had joined her loving family to pay their respects to the 22-year-old, following a procession from her family home in Wickford, the Basildon Echo reported. A respectful silence fell as her coffin, carried by her brothers and father among others, was brought into the service.
The head of the New Zealand police investigation into Millane’s death, Detective Inspector Scott Beard, flew to England to attend the funeral.
A police spokesman said Beard and a family liaison officer both attended as a “mark of respect to the family”.
“This was part of our commitment to provide on-going support to the Millane family,” the spokesman said.
Photos taken shortly before the service showed hundreds of mourners attended the Roman Catholic cathedral.
Many, including some of her family members, wore white ribbons, a symbol against domestic violence.
“You are our sunshine. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile”, the order of service read. It was decorated with paintings which Millane, a keen artist, had created.
Millane was then buried at a private ceremony in the parish of Ramsden Bellhouse before a wake at Stockbrook Country Club.
Before the funeral, Declan Millane had posted an image of himself and Millane with their brother Michael Millane, captioned with a simple heart, on social media.
Another friend posted on Facebook: “You are one of those people who are both beautiful on the inside as well as the outside… you just wanted to see the world and venture new places Grace Millane your day is set to be special just like you.”
Another said the funeral was an amazing tribute to an amazing Grace.
“Gillian Millane and David you did her proud,” the post said. “RIP sweet girl, you have gained your [angel] wings.”
A spokesperson for the University of Lincoln, where Millane had studied, also said: “Our thoughts are with Grace’s family and friends as her funeral takes place today.”
WORLD UPSIDE DOWN
Millane’s death sparked a public outcry here in New Zealand, with vigils held all over the country for the advertising graduate.
The young woman had left her hometown in October to travel the world and arrived in New Zealand in late November.
She had visited the Bay of Islands in Northland with friends days before she went missing in Auckland, where she was last seen at SkyCity with the man now charged with her murder.
Before leaving New Zealand with his daughter’s body, David Millane released a statement saying Grace would “forever be a Kiwi”, and thanked the New Zealand public and police for their support.
He said his family’s world had been “turned upside down” by her disappearance and death.
“By the amount of pictures and messages we received she clearly loved [New Zealand], its people and the lifestyle.”
Millane’s mother, Gillian Millane, had been unable to travel to New Zealand because she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.
Her two brothers and their mother told The Sunday Times that weeks before leaving on her overseas trip, Millane had cut off most of her long hair to donate to a charity that makes wigs for cancer sufferers.
In her hometown of Wickford, hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to her after her death. One woman attending that vigil told the BBC Millane’s death had “ripped the community apart”.
Wickford is a small town a little larger than Timaru. While New Zealanders held vigils and marched for peace following Millane’s death, Wickfordians tied ribbons to their front gates in her honour.
Also in Essex, two minutes of silence was held in a full Thurrock Council meeting out of respect for the family.
Hockey club president Samantha Ramsay said Grace was the kind of friend you couldn’t sum up in a short statement: “She was loyal, thoughtful and always had the biggest, brightest smile on her face. I will miss her laugh the most.”