New Zealand police have charged a man with murder after a tourist was killed in an apparently random attack on a van that sparked a huge manhunt after the victim’s Canadian fiancé reported the shooting.
Police identified the dead man as Sean McKinnon, 33, from Australia.
The woman, identified by Canadian sources as Nova Scotia native Bianca Buckley, was in the van with McKinnon when someone fired at the vehicle.
She escaped unharmed.
The 23-year-old suspect made his first court appearance Saturday to face charges of murder, aggravated robbery and threatening to kill.
Police arrested him Friday night after heavily armed officers searched for him all day. His name was not revealed.
Several members of McKinnon’s family traveled from Australia for the court hearing.
Emmeline McKinnon, her sister, told reporters outside court that the family did not know how they were going to put their lives back together.
“We are very sorry that he is gone. She loved it here, she loved surfing here,” McKinnon said. “He loved the lifestyle and the place. We’re glad she wasn’t too far from home. We will miss him very much.”
Police said the incident began just after 3 a.m. Friday when McKinnon and Buckley, 32, were sleeping in their motorhome in a scenic spot near the seaside town of Raglan.
Det. in sp. Graham Pitkethley said a man fired multiple shots at the truck, wounding McKinnon. Buckley managed to escape and called the police.
Pitkethley said the suspect stole the truck and drove away with McKinnon still inside. Police found the van at 8 a.m. about 45 miles away with McKinnon’s body inside.
Emmeline McKinnon said the family was supporting her brother’s fiancé.
“I can’t even begin to understand what he’s been through as a person. She is a very strong young woman,” she said.
In Nova Scotia, the Halifax Sacred Heart School announced that Buckley, a 2005 graduate, had been involved in a “violent incident” in New Zealand in which her fiance was killed.
The school noted in a Facebook post that the Buckley family appreciates the prayers of the school community.
“Thankfully, Bianca is safe,” the school said in the post. “Our thoughts are with Bianca and her family and of course the McKinnon family.”
Buckley’s parents, contacted in Halifax, said Friday they had spoken to their daughter after the attack.
“I am devastated,” her mother said. Her father said they preferred not to comment further. “It’s an absolutely incredible event,” she said.
A statement from Counties Manukau Health in Auckland, which Buckley has listed on his Facebook page as his employer since January, said the organization is providing support to one of its staff, a midwife, who was involved in the “tragic incident.” ”.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that McKinnon grew up in the city of Warrnambool, Australia, about 250 kilometers southwest of Melbourne, and was remembered by friends as a talented musician who liked to surf big waves.
Wayne Such told the newspaper that McKinnon was a “genuine, kind man with a heart of gold.”
— With archives from The Associated Press and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal