National

Aussie surfer shot dead in campervan in NZ

By AAP Newswire

An Australian surfer has been shot dead in a campervan in a random attack in New Zealand, before his killer stole the vehicle and drove it for an hour with his body inside.

The "lovable, knockabout" Sean McKinnon, 33, was killed while sleeping in the van with his Canadian fiancee who escaped and fled on foot to a nearby property to raise the alarm.

Mr McKinnon was in the van with fiancee Bianca Buckley in a carpark in the renowned north island surfing town of Raglan when the gunman fired a number of shots into the vehicle after 2am on Friday.

While 32-year-old Ms Buckley fled, the gunman stole the campervan with the dying Mr McKinnon inside.

Mr McKinnon's body was found in the van, which was abandoned in Hamilton, about 80km away.

A manhunt for the gunman is under way.

"This is a tragic incident. Inquiries indicate that this was a random attack," Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley told reporters in Hamilton.

Mr McKinnon grew up around Warrnambool in southwest Victoria.

Friend Julian Smith told AAP Mr McKinnon loved to surf big waves along the Victorian coast.

"He was a lovable, knockabout Aussie guy, loved his surfing," Mr Smith said.

"He charged big waves."

Mr McKinnon's sister Emmeline McKinnon told News Corp she feels "sheer helplessness".

"It's a horrible thought to know he was alone when he died," she said.

"He would always tell you he loved you and would give you a hug."

Ms McKinnon told News Corp the killer had devastated their family.

"You took away someone deeply loved and treasured," she said.

Corangamite shire councillor Simon Illingworth told the Warrnambool Standard he had known Mr McKinnon for years through the local surfing community.

"He's just an awesome bloke, cruisy, honest, give you the shirt off his back sort of bloke," he said.

"Seanny Mac was always a legend. He would do somersaults off the Port Campbell pier with the kids. He always had time for everyone."

Raglan is a well-known surfing spot for big-wave surfers. Mr McKinnon's campervan was parked in the Te Toto Gorge track carpark, not far from the water.

Colin Chung from Colin's Cafe at nearby Whale Bay told AAP the area provided some of the best surf in New Zealand, but it is off the beaten track for tourists.

Three tourists were shot at while surfing at nearby Te Maika point last year, while a fisherman was also allegedly fired upon in the area.