A sister of murdered Australian surfer Sean McKinnon says she hopes his killer gets a long time behind bars.
McKinnon, 33, was shot after being woken early in the morning as he slept in the rented campervan he shared with Canadian fiance Bianca Buckley at the scenic Te Toto Gorge on August 16, last year.
Shocked and scared, Buckley was able to run for her life, scampering about 2km to the nearest home on Whaanga Rd and frantically waking up the occupants to help her.
Mark Ronald Garson was due to go on trial on November 16, however he appeared in the High Court at Hamilton yesterday where he pleaded guilty to McKinnon's murder and threatening to kill Buckley.
He was convicted on both charges by Justice Pheroze Jagose.
"It would be good to see him receive a long sentence," the sister, who didn't want to be named, said. "The pure violence and lack of remorse shown shows someone not safe to be in the community."
The couple had been on a surfing holiday at the time. They endured a long-distance relationship; Buckley a midwife in Auckland, and McKinnon a carpenter in Victoria, Australia.
They hired a campervan and drove to Raglan, deciding to spend the night parked at the gorge, which has panoramic views of the Tasman Sea.
During the early hours, they were woken by banging on the window.
A local who comforted Buckley earlier told the Herald that Garson was "erratic" at the time and had asked for help.
"The partner [McKinnon] said they could help and tried to defuse the situation. The assailant guy was looking for the keys, he wanted to get away. He wanted to get back to Hamilton," the Raglan woman said at the time.
The resident said something then happened, and McKinnon changed his tone.
"He was less calm and [Garson] just seemed to shift in that moment. Then he smashed the window with the barrel of the gun and put the gun through the window and shot him twice."
Garson then fled towards Hamilton in the campervan eventually dumping it on the eastern outskirts of the city near Gordonton.
McKinnon's body was inside.
Three of McKinnon's siblings flew to Hamilton for Garson's first court appearance.
Sister Emmeline, 39, said at the time she was haunted at the thought of his "terrifying" final moments.
"I feel sheer helplessness. As an older sister I wish I could have been there to defend and protect him," she said.
"It's a horrible thought to know he was alone when he died."
The three siblings, with sister Jessica Mary, watched yesterday's court hearing via audio-visual link.
Another of his siblings told the Herald yesterday Garson's initial plea of not guilty was "extremely cowardly and disrespectful".
"The least he can do is give us the closure of telling us exactly what happened and why.
"I'm glad he has pleaded guilty. None of this will bring our beautiful Sean back, we don't get to hear him play music, watch him surf or see the beautiful house he would have built."
Her youngest brother was a talented musician, playing guitar and bass. He also wrote songs.
He would light up anywhere he went with "pure joy", she said.
"Smile his cheeky smiles and joke and just bring in the good vibes. Pure sweetness."
She wanted Garson locked away for a long time.
"It would be good to see him receive a long sentence. The pure violence and lack of remorse shown shows someone not safe to be out in the community.
"The initial guilty plea shows a lack of responsibility."
She said her brother's death had completely devastated the family and dragging out the court proceedings aggravated the situation.
"This behaviour is not only aggravating but shows us he's a dangerous individual that deserves to be put away for a long time."
Buckley said yesterday she didn't need to spell out the "magnitude of the impact that murdering my future husband before my eyes and then threatening to kill me has had on the life of myself and our loved ones".
"To be honest, I am tired of hearing about the murderer.
"No punishment he ever receives will balance out his wrongdoing. I'm just glad he has finally stopped wasting everyone's time by pleading guilty."
The man who bought Garson the gun he used to kill McKinnon was sentenced for his part in the murder in July.
Roderick James Finlayson is serving a six months' term of community detention.
Garson had told him it was so he could practise clay and duck shooting on a farm.
At Finlayson's sentencing, Buckley told the court McKinnon's death had shattered her life and she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks of the event.
"How do I use simple words to describe how you illegally supplying that gun has torn my world apart?" her victim impact statement read.
"I believe your actions enabled the death of my fiance, the love of my life, and I witnessed it all."
She now lived in fear of going out in the dark and camping, she was anxious, and couldn't work for nine months after his death.
"You have torn apart my relationship with Sean's family. I am now single again at age 32 years when we were planning to have babies and build a house this year.
"I am essentially starting my life from scratch again, all the while grieving my soulmate, having flashbacks of that night and waiting for a slow justice process that will see me in and out of court, at least until the end of this year."
Buckley is expected to attend Garson's sentencing in December.
The sentencing has been pushed out to allow McKinnon's family time to make arrangements to get into New Zealand and carry out quarantine procedures.