WELLINGTON (AP) – A manhunt was underway in New Zealand on Friday (Aug 16) after an Australian tourist was killed following what police believe was a random attack on the van that he and his partner were sleeping in.
Police said the couple was parked at a scenic spot near the coastal town of Raglan when a suspect approached their van just after 3am on Friday.
Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told that media that the suspect fired a number of shots into the van, injuring the Australian tourist. His partner managed to escape and run away, and she called police.
Mr Pitkethley said the suspect then stole the van and drove away with the injured man still inside.
Police found the van at 8am about 75km away in the village of Gordonton with the body of the Australian inside. It wasn’t immediately clear if the man had died from the wounds he received in the initial attack or had been subject to further violence.
“This is a tragic incident,” Mr Pitkethley said. He said police were supporting the woman, who was “very shocked and distressed”. He said it was understandable that people were worried the suspect remained armed and had not been found.
“I want to reassure the public that we are working hard to identify and locate the offender,” Mr Pitkethley said. “It is our absolute priority.”
Police deployed SWAT-style teams to the scene, and all police in the region began carrying guns as a precaution. New Zealand police typically do not carry guns on routine patrols, keeping them stored in their cars instead.
Police did not immediately identify the victim, although New Zealand media said he was 33-year-old Sean McKinnon and the woman who escaped was his 32-year-old Canadian fiancee.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mr McKinnon grew up in the town of Warrnambool, about 250km south-west of Melbourne, and that friends remembered him as a talented musician who liked to surf big waves. Raglan is known as one of New Zealand’s top surf destinations.
One friend, Mr Wayne Such, told the newspaper that Mr McKinnon was a “genuine gentle man with a heart of gold”.