A charitable appeal set up in memory of murdered British backpacker Grace Millane has been recognised with a special award from UK Prime Minister .

Love Grace x was set up by the Millane family in memory of the 22-year-old, who was murdered on December 1, 2018, by a man she met for a date in Auckland’s CBD.

Her body was later found in West Auckland’s Waitākere Ranges.

The man, who cannot be named, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years in February 2020.

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Murdered backpacker Grace Millane legacy charity praised by British PM Boris Johnson

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Grace Millane had recently graduated from the University of Lincoln with a bachelors degree before setting off on her OE.

The case made international headlines and Millane’s family vowed to use the attention as a cause for good – raising awareness of violence against women.

In October 2019, Millane’s family and friends began filling donated bags with essential and luxury items to be donated to victims of domestic violence.

In New Zealand, Kiwis donated more than 4000 handbags during an appeal spanning 13 days across February 2020.

On Thursday, Love Grace x was awarded a Points of Light Award from PM , a daily award to acknowledge “outstanding individual volunteers” who work to make a change in their community.

Murdered backpacker Grace Millane legacy charity praised by British PM Boris Johnson

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

Love Grace x collects donated handbags filled with toiletries and luxuries to donate to domestic abuse victims.

In a personal letter to Millane’s mother, Gillian, Johnson said Points of Light were given to “the most inspiration of our nation’s volunteers”.

“I cannot think of anyone more inspiring or more deserving of recognition than you,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that Love Grace x was started under “the most awful of circumstances” and expressed his sympathies.

“Domestic abuse is a horrific crime that shatters families and turns homes into prisons.

Murdered backpacker Grace Millane legacy charity praised by British PM Boris Johnson

Leon Neal/Getty Images

British Prime Minister said the charity was a fitting tribute to Gillian Millane.

“As women flee the most horrendous of circumstances, your bags filled with toiletries and other essentials may be their only possession.

He said the initiative was a “wonderful tribute to Grace”.

Johnson also wrote to Millane’s cousin, Hannah O’Callaghan, who helps run the project, thanking her for her part in providing “a vital source of comfort and dignity” to more than 7000 women.

In response to the award, Gillian Millane and O’Callaghan said they “had no idea of the scale of the issue” in relation to male violence towards women prior to Millane’s death.

Murdered backpacker Grace Millane legacy charity praised by British PM Boris Johnson

David White

David and Gillian Millane (pictured with lead Detective Inspector Scott Beard, left) travelled to New Zealand for the three-week murder trial in November 2019.

“We wanted to create a legacy in Grace’s memory and directly help women who have been affected by domestic abuse, to turn our negative into a positive and if we help just one woman, then we have achieved that.”

O’Callaghan told Stuff that what started as a 50-bag target had grown into a movement her family never anticipated.

She said they stilled heard from Kiwis, many of whom ran handbag appeals in New Zealand, and were hoping to organised another appeal locally in early 2021.

One woman recently donated 25 handbags to domestic abuse charity Shine NZ, she said.

Murdered backpacker Grace Millane legacy charity praised by British PM Boris Johnson

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Millane’s murderer was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 17 years.

“We want to accept this award on behalf of family and friends that help us with the day-to-day running of Love Grace x and everyone that has donated, in the UK, New Zealand and around the world.”

“It’s the people of NZ that are really driving it over there, we cannot thank them enough for the love and compassion they have shown Grace and us as a family.”

“Hopefully this award will allow us to raise awareness of domestic abuse and help more women in need believe in themselves and receive a little bit of luxury that many of us take for granted.”

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