One of the sisters of the Australian tourist murdered in Raglan faced her brother’s killer today in court.
Sean McKinnon's sisters, Emmeline and Mary McKinnon, went through managed isolation to make it in time for the sentencing.
They said outside the courtroom after the hearing that they were treated “brilliantly” by all involved in getting them here while the borders are closed.
Mark Garson pleaded guilty to shooting and killing the 33-year-old Australian last August, and was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years and six months.
In a similar style to Sean McKinnon’s fiancé addressing the killer, Emmeline McKinnon faced to talk to Garson during an impact statement in the Hamilton High Court.
She began by telling the court her brother was special and that she always worried for him.
“Our family of six siblings had a violent upbringing with alcoholism,” she said.
“I always looked out for him, not because he was incapable but because he was gentle.”
She told the court of the moment she saw two police officers standing outside her home.
“I worked in the police force for many years. The two things I became scared of from working in the force was the tragic loss of a child, and losing a loved one in a violent death. When I saw those officers I knew I was about to be faced with one of them.”
She said after the police delivered the news of her brother's death, she lay on the floor of her kitchen screaming.
When Garson hung his head, Emmeline McKinnon lowered her own to try and meet his gaze, which he was avoiding.
“Now I only ever expect bad news.”
Emmeline McKinnon told the court Garson has written an apology letter to her family. She said she knew if their mother read it, she would probably forgive their brother’s killer.
At this point, the defendant who was visibly upset from hearing the victim impact statement, appeared to be gasping for air.
The defendant's lawyer said Garson never intended to harm anyone, and that he sought the gun to in fact kill himself.
The night of the murder, Garson asked a friend who he was with in Raglan to kill him. After growing uncomfortable with the discussion, his friend made an excuse to go back to the car, before driving off and leaving Garson with the gun.
Having smoked methamphetamine and cannabis, Garson saw McKinnon’s campervan as an opportunity to get a ride.
That’s where the tragedy unfolded.
Justice Justine Gordon addressed the killer, acknowledging the victim impact statements given by both McKinnon's fiancé and family — in the courtroom and abroad by video link.
“Sean was clearly a kind, generous and loving man who loved life and would have helped anyone who needed assistance,” she told him.
“You killed the person Bianca would spend the rest of her life with. And the loss of Sean as a fiancé and family member impacts every moment and every aspect of their lives.”
Moments before Justice Gordon delivered the sentence, Garson asked to be excused for a break from the courtroom. He appeared agitated and rushed out the door ahead of one of his guards.
As the sentence was read out, the gallery was quiet other than one supporter of Garson’s who said, “See you later, bro.”
Outside the court, Sean McKinnon's sisters spoke to media. His fiancée Bianca was not present.
When asked how they felt about the verdict, they said they were pleased with the result but were ready to take their brother’s memory back home to Australia.
They said they wouldn’t revisit the site where their brother was murdered.