The distraught father of a missing backpacker has appealed to the public to come forward with any information, “no matter how small”.
David Millane fronted a press conference at the Auckland Central Police Station on Friday after flying to New Zealand from his home town of Essex in the United Kingdom.
His daughter Grace Millane was last sighted in central Auckland on Saturday night and was reported missing on Wednesday.
“I would just like to take this opportunity to appeal to anybody who has seen, spoken to, or come into contact with Grace over the last few days, to come forward with any detail, no matter how small, and contact the investigation team,” David Millane said.
On Friday, Detective Inspector Scott Beard said the investigation into Millane’s disappearance was “progressing rapidly”.
“At this point we hold grave fears for her safety.”
The last confirmed sighting of Millane was at 9.41pm Saturday at the CityLife Hotel in Queen St, he said.
She was with a “male companion” at the hotel, Beard said.
He had been identified by police and spoken to.
The man, who lives in New Zealand, remained a person of interest, Beard said.
Officers had also identified a “location of interest”: an apartment at the CityLife Hotel, which was being searched.
Police were stationed at the hotel on Friday afternoon. Staff said they would not comment on the investigation.
Grace Millane was on a year-long OE after graduating from the University of Lincoln in September.
A university spokeswoman would not answer questions about her, saying: “With this being an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this stage.”
Millane had been in New Zealand since November 20 after travelling through South America.
Photos on her Instagram showed she travelled to Cape Reinga with friends before returning to Auckland.
David Millane said when his daughter arrived in New Zealand, she had “bombarded” her family with photos.
She was never out of contact with her family and often spoke to them daily, he said.
“As a family we’ve been extremely concerned about her welfare.”
His daughter was lovely, outgoing and fun-loving, he said.
The family was struggling to cope with her disappearance and implored anyone with information to come forward, he said.
“We are all extremely upset and it is very difficult at this time to describe the wave of emotions we are going through.”
Matt Searle from the Lucie Blackman Trust in the UK, which helps British nationals in crisis overseas, said it had been asked for help by the Millane family.
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was providing consular support to the family and working with the New Zealand police.
Grace Millane was last seen by her roommates at Base Backpackers hostel on December 1 and her brother Declan Millane said on Thursday that most of her belongings had been left there.
Her social media accounts had also not been updated and she had not been in contact since that day.
After leaving the hostel, Millane was seen on CCTV about 7pm at SkyCity before going to CityLife Hotel.
She was wearing a black dress and white shoes.
On Friday, missing person posters featuring the missing woman’s face were taped to the walls at Base Backpackers.
Australian backpacker Alana Vodopianoff arrived at the hostel on December 4.
The 22-year-old said she hadn’t heard about Millane until seeing the posters, but that since then the missing Brit was “definitely being talked about” at the hostel.
“Everyone has their own theories about what happened,” she said.
Vodopianoff had not met anyone who knew Millane, but said as a fellow traveller in Auckland the “whole situation feels a bit surreal”.
“I know that sort of stuff happens, that people do go missing. But I’d never really thought about it properly. It’s hard to be ignorant about it now.”
Grace Millane was described as a European woman with brown hair and brown eyes.
She is about 168cm in height, and 58kg.
She is an advertising graduate and artist from Essex in the southeast of England and the holiday was her first time travelling solo.
She had spent four weeks travelling around South America as part of a group before heading to New Zealand where she was due to spend two more weeks.
Beard said on Thursday that “the longer this goes on the more concerning it is”.
Twenty-five police staff were now working on the investigation, he said.
DAD’S FULL STATEMENT
“As you all know, Grace has been missing for several days. We last had contact with Grace on Saturday December 1 and as a family we have been extremely concerned for her welfare.
“Grace is a lovely, outgoing, fun-loving, family-orientated daughter. Grace has never been out of contact for this amount of time and is usually in daily contact with either her mother, myself or her two brothers.
“Grace is on a year-long worldwide overseas experience. Grace started this travel journey in Peru in South America and was really looking forward to the second leg in New Zealand. She arrived here on November 20 and has bombarded us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures.
“We are all extremely upset and it is very difficult at this time to fully describe the range of emotions we are all going through. While we are very grateful for the media coverage both here and back home, we are finding this situation quite upsetting and would sincerely hope that media continue to respect our privacy.
“Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity to appeal to anybody who has seen, spoken to, or come into contact with Grace over the last few days, to come forward with any detail, no matter how small, and contact the investigation team.”