Alleged campervan killer's flatmate in shock over arrest

The victim of a shooting near Raglan early Friday morning has been identified as Australian tourist Sean McKinnon, of Victoria. Photo / Facebook via NZME.
The victim of a shooting near Raglan early Friday morning has been identified as Australian tourist Sean McKinnon, of Victoria. Photo / Facebook via NZME.

A flatmate of the man accused of killing Australian tourist Sean McKinnon is shaken after the man's arrest.

The young man boards at a house in the Waikato with the 23-year-old who has name suppression and been charged with murder, robbery causing grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill, and driving while disqualified.

He told the Herald at the home today his friend had helped him recover from a loss.

"He found me in a bad place. I moved in with him. He saved me from a bad loss some time ago," said the young man, who did not want to be identified.

"He was good to me. I just would rather not talk about it thanks."

A woman at the property was talking to neighbours in the street, who were asking reporters to move on.

McKinnon, 33, had been on a surfing holiday with his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley, a midwife at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland.

The pair were free camping at Te Toto Gorge carpark south of Raglan in the early hours of Friday morning when McKinnon was shot.

Buckley ran two kilometres on a dark, rugged road to find help. McKinnon's body was later found by police in the couple's abandoned campervan in Puke Road, Gordonton, north of Hamilton.

Three grieving family members of slain Australian tourist Sean McKinnon, including his sister, were in court for the first appearance of the man alleged to have murdered him.

A 23-year-old Hamilton man has appeared in the Hamilton District Court charged with murder, robbery causing grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill, and driving while disqualified.

He was arrested late Friday night following a manhunt by police after McKinnon's body was found in his campervan at Gordonton.

Judge Noel Cocurullo granted the man interim name suppression and remanded him in custody to reappear in the High Court at Hamilton on August 27.

McKinnon's sister has spoken outside court of her family's heartbreak at the loss of their youngest sibling and "Mum's favourite".

Emmeline McKinnon said she was worried about her mother, who was widowed when their father died in tragic circumstances when they were younger.

Emmeline, who works in law enforcement in Australia, said Sean looked the most like his father and the family didn't know how his death would effect their mother, who remained in Australia.

Family of victim Sean McKinnon talk to media at the Hamilton District Court. Photo: NZ Herald
Family of victim Sean McKinnon talk to media at the Hamilton District Court. Photo: NZ Herald
The 39-year-old described her brother as a wonderful person.

"We love him very deeply. We were devastated to hear that his life had been taken from him," she said.

"We just don't even know how to begin to put life together.

"The worst thing was telling my mother. I think he was my Mum's favourite.

"We're just going to miss him a lot. He'll be missed around the Christmas table."

She described her brother as loving to travel and remembers the last time she spoke to him was when she helped him get a new passport.

"Oddly enough I said a goodbye that I would say if I knew I wasn't going to see him again."

Emmeline said Sean loved being in New Zealand to visit his fiancée, Canadian midwife Bianca Buckley, when he was between jobs in Australia.

"He loved the surf here. He loved the lifestyle and the place."

The couple had not set a date yet for their wedding.

Sean McKinnon, 33, was killed in the early hours of Friday morning after a gunman tried to take...
Sean McKinnon, 33, was killed in the early hours of Friday morning after a gunman tried to take the rental campervan he and his partner were sleeping in. Photo: Facebook
She described the couple as having been young and free.

"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 Buckley, who was not at court, was resilient and strong.

"I cannot even begin to understand what she's gone through. She's a really strong young woman," she said.

The family had been supporting Buckley, who was now their priority, she said.

"We're just really glad she's alive."

Emmeline said being in court today was important.

"I just didn't want Sean to just be a face. He has a family. He's very well loved. He's a real character."

Emmeline was supported by her younger brother Lachlan, and sister Mary McKinnon.

The family wanted to understand the process and were grateful of the support the community had shown them including New Zealand police, Air New Zealand and the court.

She said they had been prepared to come to New Zealand "angry" but have been shown overwhelming support for which they are very grateful for.

She had never been to New Zealand and said the way the community had reached out to them as complete strangers, she had never experienced before.

"We are deeply grateful for the compassion expressed by people in the New Zealand community."

The siblings did not know how long they would stay in New Zealand but wanted to wait for the release of their brother's body so they could take him home to bury him.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said information from the public had contributed to finding the alleged offender.

"I know this has been a shocking event for the community," he said, thanking those who had responded to the media appeal yesterday.

"This has shocked and touched a number of people in the community and the inquiry team as well."

The investigation was continuing and a post-mortem was being carried out.

No one else was being sought at this point over the tragedy, Pitkethley said. The incident was a "random, tragic event".

Police executed a search warrant at an address in Tauhei, a tiny farming community near Gordonton, north east of Hamilton at 10.45pm Friday.

Neighbours of the address on Tainui Rd, siblings Steve Davies and Merita Proffitt, said police arrived quickly and in numbers.

"We could hear lots of barking and thought that's strange because there's no dogs around," Proffitt said.

"All of a sudden we just heard a car go past, then another car, then another car and there's was about five or six of them and they all sort of stopped."

Proffitt and her husband saw a commotion at a nearby property and ran inside from their cabin to wake Davies.

"We didn't know what what was going on but we knew something was going on. There were lots of police cars and you could hear the dogs."

Police have been searching the carpark of the Te Toto Gorge lookout on Whaanga Rd, south of...
Police have been searching the carpark of the Te Toto Gorge lookout on Whaanga Rd, south of Raglan, for evidence. Photo: NZ Herald
Davies said there were mufty police cars as well as Armed Offenders Squad police.

"I asked one of the policemen if everything was ok and he said yes, but they were in a bit of a rush."

The arrest went on for about 45 minutes after which the siblings said they could see a person being taken away in a police car.

The family was relieved when police indicated they had arrested someone.

Pitkethley was coy on how police knew where to search other than that members of the community had come forward.

"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."

In response to an Australian journalist's question about whether tourists should be concerned that this was a "wider issue", Pitkethley pointed out the high level of media interest suggested the shooting was a "random and unusual" event.

McKinnon's partner, Bianca Buckley, a midwife at Counties Manukau DHB, ran two kilometres on a dark, rugged road to find help after she watched in horror as her fiance was shot.

McKinnon, 33, grew up around Warrnambool in Victoria's southwest. The pair got engaged around Christmas 2017, according to their social media.
 

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