Suspect arrested in 'random attack' on Canadian woman and fiance in New Zealand
Published Friday, August 16, 2019 5:20AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 17, 2019 1:15PM EDT
Police have arrested a 23-year-old man in connection with the death of an Australian man who was shot during a trip to a New Zealand surf town with his Canadian fiancé.
The suspect, who police have not named, has been charged with murder, aggravated robbery and threatens to kill. Police believe the fatal attack was random.
Sean McKinnon, 33, was injured around 3 a.m. Friday after police say a man approached the camper van where McKinnon and his Canadian fiancé, identified by CTV News as 32-year-old Bianca Buckley from Halifax, were asleep. The couple was visiting the town of Raglan, known for its black sand beaches and ideal surfing conditions.
Police say the suspect began shooting inside the camper van and injured McKinnon, but Buckley was able to escape the van and call 911.
The suspect then drove off in the couple’s van with McKinnon still inside, according to investigators.
Hours later, at approximately 8 a.m. local time, police discovered McKinnon’s body inside of the van in the village of Gordonton, located nearly 75 kilometres from Raglan.
It’s unclear whether McKinnon died from his initial injuries or if he was attacked again.
Det. Insp. Graham Pitkethley said early Saturday that he was “extremely proud” of investigators for making the arrest.
“They’re dedicated and they worked throughout the night to hold this person to account,” Pitkethley said in a press conference.
New Zealand police have not named Buckley as the Canadian woman. However, Pitkethley said that police are working closely with “a whole heap of welfare services” to help her.
According to Buckley’s Facebook page, she was working in New Zealand as a midwife and became engaged to McKinnon in December 2017.
In a brief interview with The Canadian Press, Buckley’s mother said she was “devastated” by the news.
"It's an absolutely unbelievable event, and we don't have any comment," her father said.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said officials in Wellington, New Zealand were providing consular assistance to the Canadian victim.
“Our thoughts are with the Canadian citizen who survived a violent robbery incident in New Zealand, which resulted in the death of an Australian citizen,” the spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement to CTV News on Friday.
A Facebook profile page believed to belong to McKinnon showed photos of him camping, surfing, and playing guitar. Friends have described him to local newspapers as an “awesome bloke” and a “genuine, gentle man with a heart of gold.”
The suspect is expected to appear in a New Zealand court room on Saturday morning.
With files from The Canadian Press