A man has been charged over the murder of Australian surfer Sean McKinnon, who was shot in a random attack while camping in New Zealand.

The 23-year-old man will face Hamilton district court on Saturday charged with murder, aggravated robbery and threatening to kill, New Zealand Police said.

They carried out a search warrant at at a rural property at 11pm on Friday night, and arrested the man, who was not known to either of his victims.

“We know this was an alarming incident that shocked people right across New Zealand and overseas.” Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said.

McKinnon, said to be from from south-west Victoria, was found shot dead inside a camper van outside the popular New Zealand surfing town of Raglan on the west coast of the North Island.

The male offender fired a number of shots into the van where the 33-year-old victim and his 32-year-old Canadian fiancee were sleeping, after 2am on Friday.

McKinnon was shot multiple times, but the woman escaped and ran a number of kilometres through bush to a nearby property where she phoned the police.

The shooter stole the van and drove around for an hour with the dying man inside. Police were notified about 3.20am and McKinnon’s body was found in the van at 8am, which was abandoned in Hamilton, about 80km away.


Live: Tourist killed in campervan shooting https://t.co/uT0rVwZ0Jf pic.twitter.com/iUjdkK2hsr

August 16, 2019

Police refused to comment on whether the shooting was a robbery gone wrong and said the lone attacker was not known to either victim.

“This is a tragic incident. Inquiries indicate that this was a random attack,” Pitkethley told reporters in Hamilton.

McKinnon grew up around Warrnambool in south-west Victoria.

“He was a lovable, knockabout Aussie guy, loved his surfing,” friend Julian Smith said.

McKinnon’s sister Emmeline McKinnon told News Corp she felt “sheer helplessness”.

“It’s a horrible thought to know he was alone when he died,” she said. “He would always tell you he loved you and would give you a hug.”

She told News Corp the killer had devastated their family. “You took away someone deeply loved and treasured,” she said.

Corangamite shire councillor Simon Illingworth told the Warrnambool Standard he had known McKinnon for years through the local surfing community.

“He’s just an awesome bloke, cruisy, honest, give you the shirt off his back sort of bloke,” he said. “Seanny Mac was always a legend. He would do somersaults off the Port Campbell pier with the kids. He always had time for everyone.”

Bianca, who works in New Zealand, was uninjured. She was in a “shocked and distressed” state after the ordeal.

Colin Chung from Colin’s Cafe at nearby Whale Bay said the area was a rocky coastline and provided some of the best surf in New Zealand, but it is off the beaten track for tourists.


Random shootings are very rare in New Zealand and thousands of tourists travel safely in camper vans every year, with many choosing to park their vans on the side of roads, in parks and in recreational areas, an activity known as “freedom camping”.

Three tourists were shot at while surfing at nearby Te Maika point last year, while a fisherman was also allegedly fired upon in the area.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to McKinnon’s family.

– Australian Associated Press contributed to this report


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