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A 23-year-old suspect is now in custody following a nationwide manhunt in relation to the murder of 33-year-old Sean McKinnon, from Australia, reports Waikato Police in a news release.
The arrest occurred within 24 hours of the declaration of a manhunt for the suspect, shortly after 32-year-old Bianca Buckley of Nova Scotia managed to escape from the scene of the crime and report the incidentto police.
“Police deployed SWAT-style teams to the scene, and all police in the region began carrying guns as a precaution. New Zealand police typically don’t carry guns on routine patrols, keeping them stored in their cars instead,” CBCreported.
At around 11 pm the same day, police say they carried out a search warrant at a rural Waikato address and arrested the suspect.
They say this speedy arrest was mostly made possible thanks to tips from the public.
New Zealand police said that McKinnon and Buckley were sleeping inside their van on a scenic spot near Raglan at roughly 3 am. The suspect, then, allegedly approached the vehicle and opened fire.
Insp. Graham Pitkethley said the unprovoked attack mortally wounded McKinnon, but that Buckley managed to escape apparently unscathed. Beyond the robbery of the vehicle, there appears to be no greater motive, and police speculate that the incident is merely a random, tragic act of violence.
According to police, the suspect stole the vehicle and drove roughly 75 kms away from where it was later found by police with McKinnon still inside. McKinnon was apparently still alive when the suspect began his flight.
The suspect has now been charged with several serious offences including Murder, Aggravated Robbery and Threats to Kill and will be appearing in the Hamilton District Court later this morning.
In an update, police say they are still investigating the scene to collect forensic evidence, adding that the murder weapon is yet to be found. They are asking any witnesses or motorists who may have been in the area of Raglan and Gordonton at the time the crime was committed to come forward.
“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.
“Particularly, if any motorists that travelled this route on Friday have dashcam footage, Police would like to hear from you,” said Waikato Police.
The identity of the suspect has not been revealed, yet, and likely won’t until his first court appearance.