Inside The Chilling Murder Of Grace Millane At The Hands Of Her Tinder Date

Published March 30, 2024
Updated April 4, 2024

Grace Millane was traveling the world after graduating from college when she met Jesse Kempson on a dating app while visiting New Zealand — then he strangled her to death in his hotel room.

In 2018, 21-year-old Grace Millane decided to take a gap year after graduating from college. The young British woman planned to travel the world, and she set off on a backpacking tour that fall.

After spending six weeks in South America, she flew to New Zealand for a two-week stay. Millane was looking forward to celebrating her 22nd birthday while she was there — but tragically, she never got the opportunity.

Grace Millane

Facebook/Grace Emmie Rose MillaneGrace Millane was brutally murdered by her Tinder date in December 2018.

On Dec. 2, Millane’s parents sent her birthday wishes, but she never responded. They grew concerned, and three days later, they reported her missing. Police in Auckland soon discovered that she wasn’t just missing. She was dead.

In less than a week, they identified her killer as Jesse Kempson, a 26-year-old man with a history of violence against women. Millane had met up with Kempson the night of Dec. 1 for a date after connecting with him on Tinder.

And before Grace Millane ever received her parents’ birthday message, Kempson had strangled her to death in his hotel room.

The Investigation Into Grace Millane’s Disappearance

After graduating from England’s University of Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing, Grace Millane decided to explore the world. The young British backpacker arrived in New Zealand after spending six weeks in South America, eager to begin the next leg of her adventure.

Grace Millane At College Graduation

Facebook/Grace Emmie Rose MillaneGrace Millane was on a backpacking trip to celebrate her college graduation when she was killed by Jesse Kempson.

Her parents told the BBC in 2018 that throughout her trip, Millane had been “bombarding us with numerous photographs and messages of her adventures.”

That all stopped on Dec. 2, Grace Millane’s 22nd birthday.

Three days later, on Dec. 5, 2018, Millane’s parents reported her missing. While police in Auckland initially believed there was insufficient evidence to say anything had happened to Millane, it only took a few days before they determined that she was “no longer alive.”

On Dec. 8, police officially announced that Grace Millane’s case was being treated as a homicide investigation, and they began to retrace her final steps. Security camera footage helped them follow her movements on the night of her murder.

Grace Millane With Jesse Kempson

CityLife CCTV Footage/Court EvidenceGrace Millane and Jesse Kempson seen entering the CityLife hotel together on the evening of Dec. 1, 2018.

Security cameras from local restaurants and a hotel in Auckland painted a clear — and chilling — picture of her final hours. Millane was seen having drinks with a “male companion” at three different locations throughout the evening, and at 9:41 p.m., a camera captured her and the same man in an elevator at a hotel called CityLife.

Investigators later learned she had met this man on Tinder, and they knew exactly who he was — because he had commented on one of her Facebook photos the very night he killed her.

Jesse Kempson, The Tinder Date Killer

Jesse Shane Kempson was a 26-year-old bartender and laborer. On Facebook, he dropped his surname, going simply by Jesse Shane. When police saw that he had left a comment on Millane’s page the night of Dec. 1, they reached out via social media to request an interview with him.

In that first interview, Kempson appeared to be well-mannered, cooperative, and willing to talk. He told police that they’d gone out on a date the night of Dec. 1 but that they had parted ways around 10 p.m., and he hadn’t seen her since.

CityLife Elevator Footage

CityLife CCTV Footage/Court EvidenceThe final images of Grace Millane show her in an elevator with Jesse Kempson at 9:41 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2018.

However, police had already viewed the CCTV footage, and they knew Kempson and Millane had taken the elevator to the third floor of CityLife. Kempson was seen leaving the following morning, but Millane never appeared on the cameras again.

Kempson was clearly lying to the police — and he had just gone from a person of interest to the lead suspect in Grace Millane’s murder. He was taken into custody on Dec. 8. The following day, Millane’s body was discovered in the mountains about 12 miles outside of Auckland.

What Happened On The Night Of Grace Millane’s Murder?

As police found Millane’s body, viewed her autopsy report, and continued to speak with Jesse Kempson, they began unraveling the mystery of her death.

After Kempson and Millane’s date on Dec. 1, they had returned to his hotel room at CityLife. There, Kempson claimed, Millane asked him for “rough sex,” and he had accidentally killed her while consensually choking her.

However, his actions in the hours and days that followed painted a completely different picture. According to Sky News, at 1:30 a.m., Kempson searched online for things like “hottest fire” and “flesh eating birds,” visited a porn website, and took seven photos of Millane’s dead body, moving her limbs into various poses.

The next morning, he messaged another woman on Tinder to schedule a date. When he met up with her that afternoon, he told her a bizarre story about a man who had asked his girlfriend to have rough sex and then accidentally killed her. That same day, Kempson rented a carpet cleaner and bought a suitcase. Less than 24 hours after murdering Millane, he smuggled her body down the elevator and out of the hotel in the newly purchased bag.

Jesse Kempson In An Elevator

CityLife CCTV Footage/Court EvidenceJesse Kempson stuffed Grace Millane’s body into a suitcase and rolled it out of his hotel 24 hours after the two were seen riding the elevator to his room.

Then, on the morning of Dec. 3, Kempson left CityLife at 6:15 a.m., stopped at a store to purchase a shovel, and buried Grace Millane in the Waitākere Ranges.

Jesse Kempson’s Trial And ‘Rough Sex’ Defense

Kempson’s argument that an accident during “rough sex” led to Millane’s death didn’t carry much weight. He was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 17 years.

As Sky News reported in 2020, Dr. Simon Stables testified at the trial that Kempson would have had to apply significant pressure to Millane’s neck for at least four to five minutes in order to kill her — which wouldn’t happen accidentally.

What’s more, Kempson had committed violent sexual crimes before. Just eight months before murdering Grace Millane, he had raped another British tourist he met on Tinder in his motel room after a date. She didn’t tell anyone about the assault until she recognized Kempson in media coverage of his trial for Millane’s death.

“Every time I went to sleep,” the woman later told Kempson during a separate trial in which he was found guilty of raping her, “I’d see your eyes popping out of your head, staring at me in anger.”

Several other women also came forward with troubling stories about Kempson’s behavior. He had told one of them that he liked “feet, dominating and strangulation” because “it made him feel more superior and in control.”

Reclaim The Night March

Penelope Barritt / Alamy Stock PhotoA sign dedicated to Grace Millane at a Reclaim the Night march to end rape and all forms of male violence against women.

And in a third trial, Kempson was convicted yet again, this time for assaulting his former girlfriend while they were living together. He’d threatened her with a knife and forced her to participate in sex acts she was not comfortable with.

Though Grace Millane was one of many women Jesse Kempson harmed, she tragically didn’t survive to tell her story. The truth of what exactly happened in that hotel room on Dec. 1, 2018, may never come out — but for now, Kempson is unable to add to his long list of victims.

After reading about the tragic murder of Grace Millane, go inside the death of Mackenzie Cowell at the hands of her serial killer-obsessed classmate. Then, learn about the murder of Denise Johnson — and how a podcast helped to solve it.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.