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Canadian woman 'shocked', 'distressed' after random attack leaves Australian fiancé dead in New Zealand

Police collect and photograph evidence in the carpark of the Te Toto Gorge lookout on Whaanga Rd, south of Raglan, New Zealand, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. A manhunt was underway in New Zealand after an Australian tourist was killed following what police believe was a random attack on the van that he and his partner were sleeping inside. (Alan Gibson/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Canadian woman, Australian fiancé randomly attacked while sleeping in campervan in New Zealand, police say

The man died after he was shot, suspect drove the van away with the tourist still inside

Manhunt in New Zealand comes about a month after a search was sparked across Canada for Bryer Schmegelsky, Kam McLeod

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A Canadian woman is “shocked and distressed” after she and her fiancé were randomly attacked while sleeping in their campervan in New Zealand on Friday, leaving the Australian man dead, police said.

A manhunt is now underway. New Zealand police said the couple was parked at a scenic spot near the coastal town of Raglan when a suspect approached their van just after 3 a.m. in the random attack.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told media the suspect fired a number of shots into the van, injuring the Australian man. The woman managed to escape and run away, before calling police.

Police found the van at 8 a.m. about 75 kilometers away in the village of Gordonton, with the body of the Australian inside. It wasn’t immediately clear if the man had died from the wounds he received in the initial attack or had been subject to further violence.

“This is a tragic incident,” Pitkethley said. He added police were supporting the woman.

He said it was understandable people were worried the suspect remained armed and hadn’t been found.

“I want to reassure the public that we are working hard to identify and locate the offender,” Pitkethley said. “It is our absolute priority.”

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.

Police did not immediately identify the victim, although New Zealand media said he was 33-year-old Sean McKinnon and the woman who escaped was his 32-year-old Canadian fiancé.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that McKinnon grew up in the town of Warrnambool, about 250 kilometers southwest of Melbourne, and that friends remembered him as a talented musician who liked to surf big waves.

Wayne Such told the newspaper that McKinnon was a “genuine gentle man with a heart of gold.”

Raglan is known as one of New Zealand’s top surf destinations.

New Zealand manhunt has striking resemblance to weeks-long search for B.C. murder suspects

The search for the suspect in New Zealand comes almost a month to the day since the deaths of three people in northern B.C., which would in turn spark a Canada-wide manhunt for Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, who were both found dead last week.

Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were both found dead along the Alaska Highway in mid-July, just south of Liard Hot Springs. Schmegelsky and McLeod were wanted in connection with their killings, and were also charged with the death of a UBC botanist, whose body was found just days after the tourists’ about 470 kilometres away.

The remains of the men from Vancouver Island were found in northern Manitoba a week ago, on Wednesday, after Mounties say the suspects killed themselves.

A former RCMP deputy commissioner pointed out some striking resemblances between the case in New Zealand and the one that unfolded across Canada, which drew international attention.

Investigators in B.C. have said they received more than 1,000 tips when the young suspects, Schmegelsky and McLeod, were on the run.

Virtually all of those tips were incorrect, even though the people reporting them were likely credible, Peter German, who retired from the RCMP in 2012, explained.

This type of thing, he said, presents a huge issue for police.

“It’s the one that you don’t follow up that ends up being the critical one, and the questions will then be asked, ‘why didn’t you?'” he said. “We’ve certainly seen that in previous manhunts and murder investigations and so forth, but now it’s just, it’s sort of like tips on steroids.”

Despite many of the tips in the Canada manhunt being incorrect, police have stressed the importance for people to report anything suspicious.