17 Aug 2019

Man charged with murder over death of Australian tourist Sean McKinnon

1:33 pm on 17 August 2019

A 23-year-old man charged with the murder of Australian tourist Sean McKinnon has appeared in court and been granted interim name suppression.

Sean McKinnon

Sean McKinnon Photo: Facebook

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley of Waikato police said officers searched a property at Tuahei in rural Waikato at 11pm on Friday, where they made the arrest.

Armed officers were involved in the operation.

The man appeared in Hamilton District Court this morning charged with murder, robbery causing grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill and driving while disqualified.

The Hamilton man was granted interim name suppression and remanded in custody to appear in the High Court on 27 August.

Police said they were not looking for anyone else in relation to the incident.

Shots were fired into a campervan which 33-year-old Sean McKinnon from south-west Victoria was sharing with a Canadian woman.

The 32-year-old woman escaped uninjured and ran some distance through bush to contact police.

Her partner's body was discovered on Friday morning in the van about 80km away, just north of Hamilton.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethly.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethly Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Mr McKinnon's family has been advised of the arrest.

Police said the incident had shocked people across this country and overseas.

Mr Pitkethley told a media conference it was a "random, tragic event" and he thanked those in the local community who had contacted them with information.

The woman who escaped the van unhurt has not been named. Mr Pitkethley said she remained shocked and traumatised but was thankful an arrest had been made so quickly.

'Lovely, honest guy'

Mr McKinnon has been described by people in his home town as welcoming person and a fantastic surfer with a big heart.

Simon Illingworth, a councillor in Corangamit, Victoria, told the ABC he had spent countless hours surfing alongside the young man on the coast around Port Campbell, and had known him for about 15 years.

"He was just so lovely … such an honest, cruisy guy."

He said Mr McKinnon came from a close family and was a credit to his parents.

"To anyone who came down who decided to live down our way, Seany was the local they'd always talk about and say what a welcoming person he was," he said.

Olivia Tutungi, president of the Port Campbell Boardriders, said the group and the local community was hurting.

"Sean was completely unique and he lived right in the moment. He was a fantastic surfer and musician, he was a real natural talent, but he also had a super-big heart," she said.

Corangamite Shire Mayor Neil Trotter said community members were stunned by Mr McKinnon's death.

"When they're people that you know and people you associate with, it hits home," he said.