'Mum's favourite': Sister of murdered Australian tourist Sean McKinnon speaks of his character, family's devastation

The sister of murdered Australian tourist Sean McKinnon has revealed the last time she spoke to him as more details emerge about the surf-loving, wonderful "character".

In the early hours of Friday morning, McKinnon and his fiancée, Bianca, were awakened by an armed individual attempting to steal the campervan they were asleep in at Te Toto Gorge, Raglan. 

McKinnon was shot while Bianca was able to escape. The 33-year-old murdered tourist's body was later found in the back of the stolen van roughly 80km away near Hamilton.

After an all-day manhunt, police executed a search warrant on Friday night and a 23-year-old man was later arrested and charged with murder. He has also been charged with robbery causing grievous bodily harm, threatening to kill, and driving while disqualified.

The man appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Saturday morning but was granted interim name suppression and remanded in custody until August 27.

Present at court was McKinnon's sisters Emmeline and Mary, and brother Lachlan, who have all travelled over from Australia to be in Hamilton.

The McKinnon family were at Hamilton District Court on Saturday.
The McKinnon family were at Hamilton District Court on Saturday. Photo credit: Newshub.

Emmeline spoke to reporters about her loving brother, saying he was a "real character" who loved to surf and travel.

"Sean was a wonderful person and we loved him very deeply," she said.

"I was devastated to hear that his life had been taken from him. The worst thing was telling my mother. He was my mum's favourite.

"He was very well-loved, he was a real character, and we just don't know how to put life together without him being here."

"We are just really sorry that he is gone. He loved being over here. He loved to surf here. He loved the lifestyle and the place."

According to Emmeline, McKinnon often travelled to New Zealand - in between jobs -  to visit his fiancée Bianca, who is Canadian but works here.

"Sean loved to travel. He intermittently came home. He was terrible at keeping his phone and wallet and his passport. He was constantly keeping Ray Ban sunglasses in business".

Emmeline, who works in law enforcement in Australia, also recalled the last time she had spoken to her brother.

"I helped him get a new passport that he had lost.

"Oddly enough, I said a goodbye that I would say if I knew I wasn't seeing him again."

Inspector Graham Pitkethley.
Inspector Graham Pitkethley. Photo credit: Newshub.

Bianca was able to escape the gunman on Friday morning, running to get help and notifying police. Insp Graham Pitkethley said she was obviously shocked and traumatised after the incident. 

Emmeline met with Bianca on Saturday and said she was a courageous woman in a strong relationship with McKinnon.

"Bianca is amazingly resilient and strong. I cannot even begin to understand what she has been through as a person.

"They loved their surfing and travelling and eating vegan food, which is a little bit beyond my understanding at the best of times."

The sister also wanted to express her thanks to the New Zealand police, courts and people.

"I would just really like to express my sincerest gratitude to the New Zealand police service, they have been remarkably supportive during this time and I couldn't ask for better people to be in charge of the investigation.

"I have to thank Air New Zealand. They have just been remarkable. They are a real tribute to the country. I have never been to New Zealand.

"Obviously we see your Prime Minister on the news and she comes across as an amazingly eloquent woman and the way that the community has reached out to us as complete strangers, I have not ever experienced anything like it in my life."

"I wanted to come here angry. But you have all been so kind."

No one else is being sought in relation to McKinnon's death, although police continue to search for the weapon.

"We have a number of addresses we are searching in that regard," Pitkethley said on Saturday.

Te Toto Gorge carpark.
Te Toto Gorge carpark. Photo credit: Newshub.

The Waikato town of Raglan remains in shock after the shooting. Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson told Newshub it is a tight-knit community.

"They will be hurting with this, it's certainly not something they want to happen within their community."

Sanson said he's horrified by the shooting.

"It's a tragedy which should never happen in New Zealand but unfortunately it does happen from time to time and we have to deal with it.

"I feel very much for the people involved in it and their families."

He's urging people in the district to check in on each other.

"If anybody feels a little bit insecure... talk to neighbours, keep friends close, and just make sure you have your own personal security."

Pitkethley said the public helped police find the suspect

"I know this has been a shocking event for the community... This has shocked and touched a number of people in the community and the inquiry team as well."