The killer of Victorian surfer Sean McKinnon will be sentenced on Wednesday, ending a challenging wait for justice in New Zealand.
Mr McKinnon was killed while on a New Zealand holiday last August when Hamilton man Mark Garson fired a shotgun at his campervan as he slept alongside his fiance, Canadian woman Bianca Buckley.
Ms Buckley fled barefoot, reaching a farmhouse two kilometres away to alert police, while Garson drove the campervan for a short while before abandoning it.
The 23-year-old was apprehended the next day after a police manhunt.
After being seen as too mentally unsound to enter a plea for five months, Garson maintained his innocence until October this year – just a month out from the scheduled trial – when he reversed his plea and was convicted of murder.
A fortnight after his death, Mr McKinnon was remembered at a funeral in Warrnambool near his hometown as a “free spirit” who “danced to the beat of his own drum” by sister Emmeline McKinnon.
“He was loyal and had a beautiful calming nature … the world needs more people like Sean in it,” she said, as reported by The Standard.
While Mr McKinnon’s siblings travelled to New Zealand following his death, the coronavirus pandemic will keep his family from attending Wednesday’s sentencing at the Hamilton High Court.
However, New Zealand’s justice system allows for parties to submit victim impact statements during sentencings.
In July, Ms Buckley submitted an impact statement during the sentencing of Roderick Finlayson, the man who gave Garson the murder weapon.
The midwife said she had moved back to Canada where she suffers sleepnessness and anxiety, unable to shake the memory of that traumatic night.
“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,” she said, according to the NZ Herald.
Finlayson is serving six months of community detention for supplying the weapon.
In addition to murder, Garson will also face sentencing for aggravated burglary and threatening to kill.