Man charged with Aussie tourist murder
POLICE have arrested a man and charged him with murder over the death of Australian tourist near Raglan, a coastal town in the Waikato region of New Zealand's North Island, yesterday.
A 23-year-old man will front Hamilton District Court on Saturday charged with murder and a number of other offences including aggravated robbery and making threats to kill, New Zealand Police say.
Mr McKinnon, 33, and his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley were sleeping inside a campervan in the town of Raglan when they were allegedly ambushed by the man after 2am on Friday.
The gunman reportedly demanded the keys to the campervan before shooting Mr McKinnon.
Ms Buckley managed to escape on foot in the dark to a nearby farm for help while the gunman drove off in the campervan, with Mr McKinnon's body inside, police said.
"She is obviously shocked and traumatised," Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told reporters on Saturday.
"She is thankful that an arrest within a 24-hour period has occurred and we're working with her and her family, and we'll continue to be in touch with her around her welfare."
Detective Inspective Graham Pitkethley said information from the public had contributed to finding the alleged offender.
The man will appear in Hamilton District Court today. Police say they are not seeking anyone else in relation to the matter.
When asked whether tourists should be concerned about a "wider issue" in the area, Pitkethley said the high level of media interest suggested the shooting was a "random and unusual" event.
"I know this has been a shocking event for the community," he said, thanking those who had responded to the media appeal yesterday.
"This is a random, tragic event," he added.
"This has shocked and touched a number of people in the community and the inquiry team as well. It is a random violent attack that has occurred.
"But I'd just like to reassure the community. The dedication of the community and the police working together to be able to hold this offender to account in such a quick time."
He said police are supporting the family as the investigation continues and a post-mortem is being carried out.
According to Facebook, Mr McKinnon is originally from Nirranda, near Warrnambool, and the couple have been engaged since 2017.
Mr McKinnon's friend Olivia Haig described it as "a situation too unreal to comprehend".
"Our hearts are with Bianca, the family and each other as we attempt to cope and comprehend what a cruel world this can be," she wrote.
Her mate, who was affectionately known as Mackerel, will be "forever 33, forever free", she said.
Another mate, Andy Clements, said the awful news was "a hard pill to swallow", adding: "It's a surreal, tragic story you don't think will ever be linked with your own community."
Melissa Harris went to high school with Mr McKinnon and said they rode the same bus together every day and shared a birthday.
"He was such a good guy and always up for a chat," she said. "He will be missed so much. Taken way too soon."
More to come...