An Australian tourist has been found dead inside a camper van outside the popular New Zealand surfing town of Raglan on New Zealand’s west coast of the North Island.
New Zealand police were notified at 3.20am on Friday morning and found the van that was earlier reported stolen with the body of a man inside at 8am local time.
Police are still informing next of kin and have not released the victim’s name, but have confirmed that he is a 33-year-old Australian male.
According to police a male offender is now the target of a huge manhunt in the Waikato region with all local police officers ordered to carry their guns until the man was caught.
Police said the male offender smashed the window of an Apollo campervan in the early hours of Friday morning.
Two occupants were inside the campervan at the time – the Australian man and a 32-year-old Canadian woman – and the male offender fired a number of shots into the vehicle, injuring the man. Police refused to comment on whether the shooting was a robbery gone wrong, and described the incident as a “random” attack by a sole offender, and said the attacker was not known to either victim.
The female victim managed to escape from the van and flee the scene. According to the New Zealand Herald, she ran several kilometres on foot seeking help.
The woman was working in New Zealand and is uninjured from the incident, though she is “shocked and distressed” by the ordeal, local police said in a media briefing on Friday afternoon.
A homicide inquiry has now been opened, and a large-scale manhunt was underway across the region on Friday afternoon.
“This is an absolutely tragic incident,” said police in a statement.
“It is obviously concerning that we have an armed offender outstanding and we want to assure our Waikato community that our absolute priority is locating him as soon as possible and holding him to account.”
Police believe the alleged killer may have confided in members of the local community, and described the terrain of the search area as quite rough, with a lot of bush. The Waikato region is known as the dairy heartland of New Zealand.
There had been a number of alleged sightings of the offender, and Waikato police issued a “a general arming order” for all police staff in the region as a precautionary measure until the alleged attacker was found.
Random shootings are very rare in New Zealand and thousands of tourists travel safely in campervans every year, with many choosing to park their vans on the side of roads, in parks and in recreational areas.