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23-Year-Old Man Charged With the Murder of Australian Tourist in New Zealand

The alleged gunman was arrested after police raided a property on the outskirts of Hamilton late on Friday night.

by Gavin Butler
19 August 2019, 6:52am

Image via Facebook/Sean McKinnon

A man has been charged with the murder of 33-year-old Australian Sean McKinnon, who was allegedly shot dead in his campervan in New Zealand last week.

McKinnon was sleeping in the van with his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley on Friday morning, in the North Island surfing town of Raglan, when the incident occurred. It is understood that a man ambushed the couple shortly after 2 AM, demanding the keys to the vehicle, and then allegedly shot McKinnon.

Buckley managed to escape on foot and flee to a nearby farm for help, The Guardian reports, while the gunman allegedly drove off in the camper van, according to police. The van was eventually found abandoned in Hamilton, about 80 kilometres away. McKinnon’s body was still inside.

The 23-year-old alleged gunman—whose identity was suppressed—was arrested after police raided a property at Tauhei on the outskirts of Hamilton late on Friday night, the ABC reports. He faced Hamilton district court on Saturday, where he was charged with murder, aggravated robbery, threatening to kill, and driving disqualified.

New Zealand police have confirmed he has been ordered to face court again on August 27. The gun that he used in the attack is yet to be found.

“The homicide inquiry still continues, and there is work that will still be undertaken in and around the Waikato district as we work through to reconstruct the full events of this tragic event,” Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told reporters on Saturday. He further noted that police were not looking for anyone else in relation to the attack.

McKinnon was described by his friend Julian Smith as a “lovable, knockabout Aussie guy [who] loved his surfing.” His sister, Emmeline, said he "was a wonderful person and we loved him very deeply.”

"I was devastated to hear his life had been taken from him,” she said. “The worst thing was telling my mother… we just don't know even how to begin to put life together without him."

Emmeline also said that the family was comforting Bianca in the wake of the incident.

"Bianca is amazingly resilient and strong—I can't begin to understand what she's been through," she said. "Obviously that was our first priority, to get over here and just let her know that we're supporting her. We're just really glad that she's alive."

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