Sean McKinnon's heartbroken fiancee Bianca Buckley has posted a moving tribute to her "protector" who was killed in a random attack on Friday morning.

The 33-year-old Aussie and his 32-year-old Canadian-born partner were sleeping in their rented campervan at the Te Toto Gorge carpark in Ragland, New Zealand in the early hours of Friday morning when the accused killer allegedly banged on the vehicle and demanded their keys.

He then allegedly shot Mr McKinnon and drove away with the surfer's body in the van.

Miraculously, Ms Buckley was able to escape, and it is believed she ran for several kilometres in the darkness to find help.


A 23-year-old man has been arrested, but his name has not yet been released by authorities.

Yesterday, Ms Buckley paid tribute to Mr McKinnon, who she described as "the light and love of my life".

"My greatest teacher. My protector," she said in a note released to the Nine Network.

 Her tribute reads:
Her tribute reads: "The light and love of my life. My greatest teacher. My protector."

Ms Buckley and Mr McKinnon's Facebook pages have both been inundated with condolences from friends and strangers alike since the tragedy occurred.

"Random Kiwi here … from the bottom of our hearts we are so sorry this has happened," one New Zealander wrote on Mr McKinnon's page.

"What a cruel messed up world we live in at times … So heartbreaking to read this story. Condolences to his fiancee, family and friends," another posted.

Ms Buckley is from Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

According to Halifax Today, she was working as a midwife in New Zealand, and Mr McKinnon had joined her for a short surfing holiday at the time of the attack.


Her former high school, the Sacred Heart School of Halifax, has also posted a message of support online.

We are saddened to share the news that SHSH alumna, Bianca Buckley ‘05, was involved in a violent incident yesterday in...

Posted by Sacred Heart School of Halifax on Friday, 16 August 2019

Ms Buckley and Mr McKinnon, from Warrnambool in Victoria, got engaged around Christmas 2017.

Mr McKinnon's sister, Emmeline, said he was a world traveller who lived for surfing, friends and family.

"He did everything with a smile.

"He was devastatingly handsome and a caring, sensitive young man, even as a boy. He would always tell you he loved you and would give you a hug.

"He had a great sense of humour."

Australian victim Sean McKinnon and his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley.
Australian victim Sean McKinnon and his Canadian fiancee Bianca Buckley.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told the New Zealand Herald police were still searching for the weapon used in the attack.

He said authorities were still piecing together the events surrounding the incident and called for witnesses to come forward who may have seen a man hitchhiking in the area on Friday.

"As part of our ongoing inquiries, police are looking for anyone who may have seen any hitchhikers in the Gordonton — Whitikahu area during daylight hours on Friday," he said.

"Particularly, if any motorists that travelled this route on Friday have dashcam footage, police would like to hear from you."

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

Mr McKinnon's mother Rhonda, brother Lachlan and four sisters have since flown to New Zealand, and they faced his accused killer as he appeared in Hamilton District Court charged with murder, aggravated robbery, threatening to kill and driving disqualified.

He is due to face another hearing on August 27.

The murder, which has sent shockwaves across Australia, New Zealand and Canada, comes just weeks after another Australian man, Lucas Fowler, was shot dead alongside his American partner Chynna Deese during a campervan holiday in Canada.

Suspected killers Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, were eventually found dead following a massive manhunt.