The sisters of Australian surfer Sean McKinnon, who was killed in Raglan last year, have spoken out after the jailing of their brother’s murderer.
McKinnon was shot in his campervan in August last year in front of his partner Bianca Buckley by Mark Garson, 24, who today was handed a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 15 and a half years.
The High Court in Hamilton heard from Buckley as well as McKinnon’s sisters Emmeline and Mary who travelled from Australia to share their grief in the courtroom.
Emmeline told media this afternoon that she was pleased with the sentence.
“It’s a funny day because nothing is going to bring Sean back. We’re saddened by that. But at the same time, too, we’ve been looking forward to it.”
Emmeline said she wanted to speak to her brother’s murderer, “but at the same time, this is a good time for us to separate our lives away from him now, and not really have that hold relevance in our day-to-day life going forward.
“It’s just about trying to fill those places with the good memories of Sean and try to look towards the future.
“It’s about trying to move forward in life and not let Sean’s memory be the fact that he was murdered.”
During their time in New Zealand, the sisters have visitedTe Toto Gorge where their brother died to lay flowers, Emmeline said.
“For me personally, it’s kind of time to leave that place alone now and bring Sean home.
“We went there just the other day and it certainly didn’t feel as hostile as had previously had.”
'I am forever changed'
Garson fatally shot McKinnon in a campervan during the early hours of August 16 last year.
The campervan was parked in the gorge in Raglan, which panoramic views of the Tasman sea.
Buckley was the first to speak in the High Court at Hamilton today, which startled Garson, who went on to wipe tears from his face and bend over in grief.
She told him how they had heard him knocking on the side and all around the caravan saying “I know you’re in there”.
Lying there naked, Buckley said McKinnon popped his head out and asked how he could help him, “in a non-threatening way”.
Garson then demanded the keys to the campervan before smashing a window, and Buckley eventually getting cut from the glass, her naked body bleeding.
“Sean tried to reason with you … and without any warning you shot him, straight in the liver, point blank.
McKinnon continued to look for the keys as blood poured from his body and attempting to defuse the situation.
“Then, with no warning, you shot him at the base of his skull, killing him instantly.”
She said she could only watch as he collapsed to the ground “watching his life leave him”.
Buckley stumbled out of the van, covered in not only her blood but that of McKinnon’s, and stood before Garson naked with her hands up.
“I didn’t know what to do. I was stunned that a human being could do that … I begged for mercy, saying, ‘He’s dead’.
“You replied, ‘Yeah bitch, he’s dead’. You said that. I will never forget you saying that. You knew what you were doing.”
Garson then forced her back into the campervan to find the keys as he pointed the gun to her back, swearing at her and calling her names.
He then told her, “I’m not going to kill you, just give me the f****** keys”.
She eventually found the keys and asked Garson if she could have a moment with her fiancé before he drove off.
“No, I will take care of him,” Garson replied.
“You were so cruel,” she told him.
Garson then left and Buckley began running back towards Raglan along the side of the cliff, hoping that he wouldn’t return.
Garson fled in the campervan, dumping it on the roadside near Gordonton on the outskirts of Hamilton.
McKinnon’s body was still inside.
She told Garson that what he did “shocked the world” with a series of events that not even a director of a horror movie could script.
Garson had destroyed her life and her dream with McKinnon which were going to include a wedding and eventually children.
“I am forever changed.”
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