The distraught fiance of slain Australian surfer Sean McKinnon, 33, has paid tribute to her teacher and protector.
Bianca Buckley endured a nightmarish ordeal when her lover was shot dead in their campervan while holidaying in Raglan, New Zealand.
Ms Buckley managed to escape and fled to a nearby farmhouse to call for help. Mr McKinnon’s body was later found in the vehicle in the nearby town of Gordonton at 8am on Friday.
In a note shared with Nine News, Ms Buckley wrote that Mr McKinnon was: “The light and love of my life. My greatest teacher. My protector.”
While Ms Buckley has asked for privacy, Detective Inspector Pitkethley said she and the family appreciated the support they have received.
“She is focused on gathering her thoughts on the memories she has with Sean and the time they spent together before the tragic events of Friday morning,” Det Insp Pitkethley said.
Police 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,” Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said.
The family of Mr McKinnon have had their son’s body returned to them.
A 23-year-old man was charged with his murder on Saturday. He allegedly fired several shots into the couple’s campervan, then drove off with Mr McKinnon dying inside.
The weapon used in the attack is yet to be found and police have urged anyone who may have spotted a hitchhiker around Gordonton or at nearby Whitikahu during the day on Friday to contact them.
The accused killer was apparently “struggling” in the lead up to the murder.
A friend of the alleged killer posted a public photo of him and the man standing side-by-side on social media. “I witnessed your struggle brother …,” he wrote.
The post comes shortly after the accused killer faced Hamilton District Court and was remanded in custody to appear again in the High Court on August 27. His name and identity have been suppressed.