The devastated siblings of slain Australian tourist Sean McKinnon say they don't know how their family will get over the loss, but they are grateful his fiancee is alive.

The emotional tribute to their youngest brother came after the 23-year-old Waikato man accused of McKinnon's murder appeared in court yesterday.

And police continue to scour a Waikato farming community in search of a weapon.

McKinnon's body was found in his rented campervan at Gordonton, north of Hamilton, at 8am on Friday, sparking a homicide investigation.

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The 33-year-old had been on a surfing holiday with his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley, a midwife at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland.

The pair were free camping at the remote Te Toto Gorge carpark in the hills south of Raglan overnight on Thursday when McKinnon was allegedly shot.

Buckley escaped and ran 2km in bare feet on a bush road to raise the alarm.

Siblings Emmeline, Lachlan and Mary explain why it was important for them to be present at the court appearance of the man accused of murdering their brother. Photo / Mike Scott
Siblings Emmeline, Lachlan and Mary explain why it was important for them to be present at the court appearance of the man accused of murdering their brother. Photo / Mike Scott

The accused, who has interim name suppression, was arrested Friday night by armed police as they executed a search warrant on a rural property in Tauhei, east of Gordonton.

The victim's eldest sister, Emmeline McKinnon, spoke outside court of her family's heartbreak at the loss of their "wonderful" brother.

"We love him very deeply. We were devastated to hear that his life had been taken from him," she said.

"We just don't even know how to begin to put life together.

"The worst thing was telling my mother. I think he was my Mum's favourite.

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"We're just going to miss him a lot. He'll be missed around the Christmas table."

She said McKinnon loved travelling and the last time she spoke to him was when she helped him get a new passport.

Eldest sister of Sean McKinnon, Australian police officer Emmeline McKinnon, is worried about how her mother will cope with their family's devastating loss. Photo / Mike Scott
Eldest sister of Sean McKinnon, Australian police officer Emmeline McKinnon, is worried about how her mother will cope with their family's devastating loss. Photo / Mike Scott

"Oddly enough I said a goodbye that I would say if I knew I wasn't going to see him again."

Emmeline said McKinnon loved being in New Zealand to visit Buckley, when he was between jobs in Australia.

"He loved the surf here. He loved the lifestyle and the place."

The couple had not set a date yet for their wedding.

Emmeline said Buckley was "amazingly resilient and strong".

"I cannot even begin to understand what she's gone through."

The family had been supporting Buckley, who was now their priority, she said.

"We're just really glad she's alive."

Emmeline, her younger brother Lachlan, and sister Mary McKinnon did not know how long they would stay in New Zealand but wanted to wait for the release of their brother's body so they could take him home to bury him.

Bianca Buckley and Sean McKinnon had been engaged more than 18 months and loved travelling and surfing. Photo / Facebook
Bianca Buckley and Sean McKinnon had been engaged more than 18 months and loved travelling and surfing. Photo / Facebook

McKinnon had been working as a carpenter at Stephen Little Construction in Hobart, Tasmania.

Hutchinson Builders site manager Mark Mackney said workers were downcast at the site on Saturday.

"He was an extremely likeable man and will be surely missed by his workmates here in Tasmania.

"We will inform the full site on Monday morning of this sad loss and pay our respect with a minute's silence."

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley said members of the community came forward with information that helped locate the accused.

The man was found hiding in an empty farm worker's cabin. The farmer, who did not want to be named, said he lived down the road and did not hear the 11pm arrest.

He said the worker was away this weekend and wouldn't say who he was. Police had a vehicle towed from the scene on Saturday afternoon and continued searching areas of nearby Whitikahu School.

Neighbours of the cabin, siblings Steve Davies and Merita Proffitt, said police arrived quickly and in numbers.

The farm worker's cabin where the man accused of killing Sean McKinnon was arrested. Photo / Natalie Akoorie
The farm worker's cabin where the man accused of killing Sean McKinnon was arrested. Photo / Natalie Akoorie

"We didn't know what was going on but we knew something was going on," Proffitt said.

"I asked one of the policemen if everything was okay and he said yes, but they were in a bit of a rush," Davies said.

The arrest went on for about 45 minutes after which the siblings said they could see a person being taken away in a police car.

Pitkethley called McKinnon's death a random and tragic event.

"This has shocked and touched a number of people in the community and the inquiry team as well."

Meanwhile a housemate of the accused was shaken after the arrest.

The young man boards at a house in the Waikato with the alleged killer, who was charged with murder, robbery causing grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill and driving while disqualified.

The housemate told the Herald on Sunday his friend helped him recover from a loss.

"He found me in a bad place. I moved in with him. He saved me from a bad loss some time ago," said the young man, who did not want to be identified.

"He was good to me."

The accused was remanded in custody to reappear in the High Court on August 27.