Buckley, originally from Halifax, escaped on foot, but her fiancé’s body was found about a 75-minute drive away in Gordonton a few hours later, according to New Zealand police
In an eerie parallel of the triple murder in a remote area of northern British Columbia last month, a manhunt is underway in an off-the-beaten track area of New Zealand after a random attack on a couple left an Australian man dead.
Sean McKinnon, 33, was on a campervan vacation with Canadian Bianca Buckley, 32, in Raglan, an area known for big-wave surfing, about 165 km south of Auckland, when a man allegedly demanded the keys to their rental van around 3 a.m. on Friday and fired shots, according to media reports in New Zealand and Australia.
Buckley, originally from Halifax, escaped on foot, but her fiancé’s body was found about a 75-minute drive away in Gordonton a few hours later, according to New Zealand police.
Det. Insp. Graham Pitkethley of the New Zealand police described the incident as a random “absolutely tragic” attack. And he said the woman, who multiple media sources confirmed was Buckley, was “understandably very shocked and distressed.”
“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 in a news conference. “It is our absolute priority.”
The Canadian consular officials in Wellington, New Zealand have offered their services, which usually consist of providing advice, information for legal resources and medical services for victims of crime.
He smashed the window with the barrel of the gun and put the gun through the window and shot him twice
“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,” Barbara Harvey, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said in an email. She declined to comment further, citing the Privacy Act.
In Nova Scotia, Sacred Heart School of Halifax announced Buckley, a 2005 graduate, had been involved in a “violent incident” in New Zealand in which her fiancé was killed.
The school noted in a Facebook post that the Buckley family appreciates the prayers of the school community.
“Bianca thankfully is safe,” the school said in the post. “Our thoughts are with Bianca and her family and of course with the McKinnon family.”
A statement from Counties Manukau Health in Auckland, which Buckley listed on her Facebook page as her employer since January, said the organization is providing support to one of its staff members, a midwife, who was involved in the “tragic incident.”
Buckley’s family has requested privacy.
McKinnon, who grew up around Port Campbell, Australia, about 230 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, was known as a well-loved surfer, musician and traveller.
His heartbroken mother and four sisters who are living their “worst nightmare” are on their way to New Zealand, the New Zealand Herald reported.
His sister Emmeline McKinnon, 39, said she felt haunted thinking of what happened to him. “I feel sheer helplessness.”
The couple met while travelling in South America, she said, according to an article in The Age.
“Bianca and Sean shared a passion for adventure and surfing and travel,” she said in the article. “He was a gentle sort of soul with a good sense of humour.”
Buckley, a Counties Manukau District Health Board midwife, and McKinnon were on a surfing holiday in a small beachside town when the incident happened.
A woman who lives nearby said she comforted McKinnon, but didn’t want to be named, according to the New Zealand Herald. She said Buckley, who arrived at her house barefoot, with cuts to her face and bloodstained jeans, had just woken up when she heard a commotion and McKinnon was fumbling trying to find the keys.
“Then something happened,” the resident told the Herald. “Her boyfriend changed his tone. He was less calm and the guy [offender] just seemed to shift in that moment. Then he smashed the window with the barrel of the gun and put the gun through the window and shot him twice.”
Apparently the killer pushed Buckley out of the van and told her he wasn’t going to shoot her. She then ran about two kilometres until she arrived at the woman’s house.
Bianca and Sean shared a passion for adventure and surfing and travel. He was a gentle sort of soul with a good sense of humour.
“I think she was pretty sure [McKinnon] wasn’t alive at that point,” said the resident who called the police.
They’ve launched a homicide investigation and have issued a General Arming Order, meaning all police officers will be armed.
New Zealand recently started a gun buyback program following the Christchurch terror attack in March, which left 51 people dead and 49 injured.
The latest attack is reminiscent of the shooting deaths of American tourist Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, in northern British Columbia last month. The investigation into their deaths and separately that of a third victim, Leonard Dyck, is continuing although the main suspects in the three homicides Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were found dead on the shores of Nelson River, Manitoba on Aug. 7 after a nationwide manhunt.
With files from the Canadian Press