A 32-year-old Canadian woman has managed to escape a “random attack” in New Zealand that left her Australian fiancé dead.
On Friday, New Zealand Police announced that a manhunt was underway for a male suspect who is believed to have murdered the 33-year-old Australian man at a carpark near the coastal town of Raglan, a popular surfing destination on the country’s North Island.
During a press conference, Det. Insp. Graham Pitkethley said they were notified just after 3 a.m. that a suspect had approached a parked van at the Te Toto Gorge track carpark and fired a number of shots into it.
Police said the man was injured in the attack and the woman managed to run away and call police.
The suspect then drove off in the couple’s van with the injured tourist still inside, according to investigators.
Hours later, at approximately 8 a.m. local time, police discovered the body of the Australian man inside of the van in the village of Gordonton, located nearly 75 kilometres away from Raglan. It’s unclear whether the man died from his initial injuries or if he was attacked again.
Pitkethley said they were conducting investigations at the carpark in Raglan and in Gordonton where the body was located.
“This is a tragic incident,” he said, adding that investigators were providing the female victim with the “support and welfare” she needs.
“We are supporting the female victim who is understandably very shocked and distressed,” he 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.
Police said it appears the suspect and the victims didn’t know each other and this was a “random attack.”
“It is understandable and concerning to have an armed offender outstanding, but I want to reassure the public we are working hard to identify and locate the offender,” Pitkethley said. “It is our absolute priority.”
Anyone who saw a white 2017 Toyota Hiace ZL van travelling between Raglan and Gordonton before 8 a.m. on Friday morning has been asked to call police.
In an effort to apprehend the suspect, police deployed special SWAT-style teams to the scenes and all police officers were ordered to carry guns as a precautionary measure. Police in New Zealand don’t regularly carry weapons when they’re on duty.
As for the Australian man’s identity, police said they would not be naming him until a formal identification has been carried out and his next of kin have been notified. They also wouldn’t identify the female victim due to “privacy reasons.”
However, local media in Australia and New Zealand reported the murdered Australian man’s name as Sean McKinnon. The Sydney Morning Herald said McKinnon grew up near Warrnambool, Australia.
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.”
According to social media, McKinnon and his Canadian fiancee had been engaged since December 2017.
With files from The Canadian Press