A Canadian woman who visited a popular New Zealand surf town with her Australian fiancé managed to escape a seemingly random shooting that left her fiancé dead.
CTV News has confirmed that 32-year-old Bianca Buckley, who grew up in Halifax, escaped an attack in a carpark in the town of Raglan. Family members have identified her fiancé, 33-year-old Sean McKinnon from Australia, as the deceased.
On Friday, New Zealand Police announced that a manhunt was underway for a male suspect who is believed to have murdered McKinnon.
Police said they were notified just after 3 a.m. that a suspect had approached a parked van at a carpark in the town of Raglan on the country’s North Island 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 man 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 the man died from his initial injuries or if he was attacked again.
Det. Insp. Graham Pitkethley said it appears the suspect and the victims didn’t know each other and that 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.”
Pitkethley added that police were conducting investigations at the carpark in Raglan and in Gordonton where the body was located.
“This is a tragic incident,” he said. “We are supporting the female victim who is understandably very shocked and distressed.”
According to Buckley’s Facebook page, she and McKinnon became engaged in December 2017.
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.”
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 while on duty.
Anyone who saw a white 2017 Toyota Hiace ZL van travelling between Raglan and Gordonton before 8 a.m. on Friday has been asked to call police.
With files from The Canadian Press