NEWS
08/16/2019 07:09 EDT | Updated 08/16/2019 22:08 EDT

Canadian Escapes As Fiancé Killed In New Zealand Shooting Attack

Police say the woman who fled was “very shocked and distressed.”

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Police in New Zealand say they have arrested a suspect in the shooting death of man who was the fiancé of a Canadian women.

Police have identified the victim as 33-year-old Sean McKinnon of Australia.

The woman, identified by Canadian sources as Nova Scotia native Bianca Buckley, was in a van with McKinnon when someone fired shots into the vehicle.

She escaped unharmed.

Alan Gibson/New Zealand Herald via AP/CP
Police officers collect evidence near the Te Toto Gorge lookout on Friday near Raglan, New Zealand.

Police say they arrested a 23-year-old man at a rural home in connection with McKinnon’s death.

“He has been charged with a number of serious offences including Murder, Aggravated Robbery and Threatens to Kill,” Det. Insp. Graham Pitkethley said in a release.

Police said the suspect, who was not named, is to appear in Hamilton District Court.

Pitkethley said McKinnon’s family has been notified of the arrest.

“This is a traumatic time for his family and his partner and the New Zealand Police will do everything we can to provide them with support they need,” he said.

“We know this was an alarming incident that shocked people right across New Zealand and overseas.”

Police have said that McKinnon and Buckley had been sleeping inside the van at a scenic spot near the coastal town of Raglan when a suspect approached the vehicle just after 3 a.m. Friday.

Pitkethley said the suspect fired a number of shots into the van, injuring the Australian tourist.

The woman managed to escape and call police.

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.

Survivor’s mom ‘devastated’ by attack 

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.”

Buckley’s parents, reached in Halifax, said Friday they had spoken with their daughter after the attack.

“I’m devastated,” her mother said. Her father said they preferred not to comment any further. “It’s an absolutely unbelievable event, and we don’t have any comment,” he said.

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.”

Watch: New Zealand buys back thousands of guns. Story continues below. 

Pitkethley said after the initial shooting, the suspect stole the van and drove away with the injured tourist still inside.

The terrain where the vehicle was stolen is “quite rough,” he said, and police are still trying to determine whether the Canadian woman sustained any injuries in her escape.

Police found the vehicle at 8 a.m. about 75 kilometres away. It wasn’t immediately clear if McKinnon had died from the wounds he received in the initial attack or had been subject to further violence.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that McKinnon grew up in the town of Warrnambool, Australia, about 250 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, and that friends remembered him as a talented musician who liked to surf big waves.

Wayne Such told the newspaper that McKinnon was a “genuine, gentle man with a heart of gold.”

With files from The Associated Press and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal