The shattered family members of a slain Australian man holidaying in New Zealand have come face-to-face with his accused killer in court.
Sean McKinnon, 33, and his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley were allegedly targeted in a random attack while camping in the North Island town of Raglan.
The couple were in the campervan when the alleged gunman fired a number of shots into the vehicle after 2am on Friday.
Ms Buckley managed to escape on foot in the dark while the alleged attacker drove off in the campervan, with Mr McKinnon dying in it.
Sean McKinnon, 33, and his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley were allegedly targeted in a random attack while camping in the North Island town of Raglan
His body and the stolen vehicle were found at Gordonton, 80km away from the crime scene, about 8am on Friday.
Mr McKinnon’s Australian family were forced to face the 23-year-old alleged killer as he appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Saturday.
Emmeline, the 39-year-old sister of the victim, arrived at court with two other grieving siblings, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Speaking outside the court, Emmeline said she was worried for her widowed mother – who has remained in Australia.
‘The worst thing was telling my mother. I think he was my Mum’s favourite,’ she said.
‘We’re just going to miss him a lot. He’ll be missed around the Christmas table.’
Emmeline said the family loved Mr McKinnon ‘very deeply’ and they were struggling to ‘put life together’ amid the tragedy.
She said Mr McKinnon loved the surf in New Zealand as well as the lifestyle.
The couple were in the campervan when the alleged gunman fired a number of shots into the vehicle after 2am on Friday. Ms Buckley managed to escape on foot in the dark while the alleged attacker drove off in the campervan, with Mr McKinnon dying in it
He had been engaged to Ms Buckley since December 2017, according to social media, but the pair had not secured plans for their wedding.
‘They’re young. They’re still at that great age where that reckless temperance of youth hasn’t come into line with the responsibilities of adulthood and it never will for Sean now,’ Emmeline said.
Emmeline described Ms Buckley as a ‘really strong young woman’, adding the family are glad she was able to escape.
Emmeline, who attended court with siblings Lachlan and Mary, said it was important to show Mr McKinnon was more than just a ‘face’ but rather a well-loved member of a family.
The siblings want to take their brother’s body home to Australia and are not yet sure how long they will stay in New Zealand.
Emmeline, the 39-year-old sister of Mr McKinnon, said she was worried for her widowed mother. ‘The worst thing was telling my mother. I think he was my Mum’s favourite,’ she said
The alleged killer was arrested in Waikato about 11pm on Friday and was charged with murder, aggravated robbery and threaten to kill.
He was granted interim name suppression by Judge Noel Cocurullo on Saturday and has been remanded in custody to reappear in the High Court at Hamilton on August 27.
In a statement Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said they were offering victim’s family support in the wake of the arrest.
‘This is a traumatic time for his family and his partner and the New Zealand Police we will do everything we can to provide them with support they need,’ he said on Saturday.
Mr Pitkethley extended his gratitude to members of the local community amid their investigations into the alleged killing.
Sean McKinnon was allegedly shot dead in New Zealand. The alleged killer was arrested in Waikato about 11pm on Friday and was charged with murder, aggravated robbery and threaten to kill
‘I want to thank those in our community who contacted Police with information and assisted us with our investigation,’ he said.
‘I also want to acknowledge the hard work from the investigators involved in this case. It is because of their dedicated efforts and the assistance from the public that Police were able to make an arrest within 24 hours.’
Mr Pitkethley said the ‘alarming incident’ has ‘shocked’ people across New Zealand and overseas.
‘We want to reassure the community that the safety of our community is our priority and we will do everything we can to find those responsible for serious crimes and hold them to account,’ he said.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday morning, Mr Pitkethley said the alleged attack was a ‘random, tragic event’.
A gunman allegedly broke into a campervan and shot dead an Australian tourist while he slept next to his Canadian girlfriend at a remote New Zealand lookout
Mr McKinnon often detailed his love of camping and travelling on his social media accounts.
The couple met in South America while Mr McKinnon was on a surfing trip.
Mr McKinnon, originally from Warrnambool in Victoria, was employed as a carpenter in Tasmania and would often visit Bianca in New Zealand, where she worked as a midwife.
The couple were reportedly resting in the campervan when they were woken by a stranger banging on the window.
A resident, who comforted Ms Buckley after the alleged attack, said the couple tried to ‘defuse’ the situation and Mr McKinnon scrambled for the keys.
Mr McKinnon often detailed his love of camping and travelling on his social media accounts
Ms Buckley told the woman her boyfriend’s tone of voice changed, becoming less calm and the alleged offender shifted too, New Zealand Herald reported.
The resident told the publication the alleged attacker then smashed the window with the gun, put the weapon through the window and allegedly shot Mr McKinnon twice.
Ms Buckley told the resident the alleged attacker said he wouldn’t shoot her.
He allegedly pushed her naked from the van but she was able to get her clothes before fleeing.
Police were called to a ‘serious incident’ in Raglan, about 3.20am on Friday. They allegedly discovered Mr McKinnon’s body at about 8am inside a van in Gordonton.
A map shows the alleged attack on Friday morning in New Zealand