WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A New Zealand man accused of murdering a British backpacker pleaded not guilty on Wednesday at a court in Auckland.
The killing of 22-year-old Grace Millane shocked New Zealand, where serious crime is relatively rare and its cities and countryside are considered safe.
The accused, whose name has been suppressed by the court, pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court for a second time, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Justice Simon Moore said the trial would begin on Nov. 4. It is expected to last for three weeks.
Millane, who was travelling after finishing university, went missing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, on Dec. 1.
Police found her body in a bush area just a few metres from a scenic drive in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges.
Police have declined to say whether Millane knew the 27-year-old man charged with her murder, but he had been seen with her before she went missing.
A judge earlier refused the accused man’s request to suppress his name in media coverage. But he cannot be identified while his lawyer appeals that decision.
Thousands of people held candlelight vigils following Millane’s death, in a national outpouring of grief that focused attention on violence against women.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, holding back tears, publicly apologised to Millane’s family, describing the country’s “sense of collective shame”.
A memorial was held in her home town in the British county of Essex last week.