Queenstown pays tribute to Grace

Josh Lewis lights candles on a birthday cake for Grace Millane

On the shores of Lake Wakatipu, a small birthday cake was placed gently on an English flag, surrounded by flowers.

On it were 22 brightly coloured candles – one for every year of slain English tourist Grace Millane’s life.

It was brought to the Queenstown vigil organised to remember Miss Millane by close family friend Josh Lewis, who struggled to contain his emotion as he recalled the “amazing, lovely, innocent little girl” he considered a younger sister.

“I wanted to bring her a birthday cake, because I know she probably wouldn’t have got one.”

Mr Lewis was one of about 100 mourners who gathered at the lakefront during a drizzly evening for the vigil, organised by Queenstown woman Amanda Morris.

Mr Lewis said he was a close friend of Miss Millane’s older brother, Declan, and knew the family for about 15 years.

He said he spoke to a “distraught” Declan shortly after news of the tragedy broke.

“We’re all here to support him, and all my friends back home are there to support him.”

He said the support from across New Zealand had been “incredible”.

Many members of the crowd in Queenstown left flowers and tealight candles at a small memorial set up by Miss Morris. Others carried pictures of Miss Millane.

Addressing the crowd, Miss Morris said as a former backpacker herself, hearing Miss Millane’s story had been “especially devastating”.

“I’ve organised this event today so we can collectively reflect, and remember a life taken too soon.”

Local Ngai Tahu members also paid tribute with waiata and a karakia.

A 26-year-old man has been charged with Miss Millane’s murder.