A man has faced court over the alleged murder of Australian surfer Sean McKinnon, who was shot while travelling in a campervan with his fiancee in New Zealand.
The 23-year-old man fronted Hamilton District Court charged with murder on Saturday while Mr McKinnon’s family spoke of their pain following his appearance.
“The worst thing was telling my mother,” Mr McKinnon’s sister Emmeline McKinnon told reporters.
“We love him very deeply. We were devastated to hear that his life had been taken from him.”
Ms McKinnon and other family members arrived in New Zealand overnight and were present in court when the man accused of killing the Australian was remanded in custody.
He was arrested at a rural Waikato address on Friday night, following a tip-off from the public.
New Zealand Police have confirmed he has been ordered to face court again on August 27 for the murder charge and other offences including aggravated robbery and making threats to kill.
There is an interim suppression order on the accused’s name, at least until his next court appearance, police said.
Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said police aren’t looking for anyone else in relation to the attack.
“The homicide inquiry still continues, and there is work that will still be undertaken in and around the Waikato district as we work through to reconstruct the full events of this tragic event,” he told reporters on Saturday.
Mr McKinnon, 33, was killed while sleeping in the van with his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley, in the renowned North Island surfing town of Raglan.
The gunman allegedly ambushed the couple after 2am on Friday, demanding 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.
Mr McKinnon’s body was found in the van, which was abandoned in Hamilton, about 80km away.
“Bianca is amazingly resilient and strong. I cannot even begin to understand what she’s gone through,” Ms McKinnon said of her brother’s fiancee.
“She’s a really strong young woman. We’re just really glad she’s alive.”
Detective Inspector Pitkethley said Ms Buckley was shocked and traumatised.
“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,” he said.
Mr McKinnon grew up around Warrnambool in southwest Victoria.
Friend Julian Smith told AAP Mr McKinnon loved to surf big waves along the Victorian coast.
“He was a lovable, knockabout Aussie guy, loved his surfing,” Mr Smith said.