Published On: Sat, Mar 16th, 2019

Christchurch Shootings: Attack Suspect Brenton Tarrant Appears In Court

The main suspect in the mosque shootings that killed 49 people in New Zealand on Friday has appeared in court on a single murder charge.

Christchurch Shootings

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, appeared in the dock in a white prison shirt and handcuffs. Further charges are expected to be made against him.

PM Jacinda Ardern said Mr Tarrant had five guns and a firearms licence, adding: “Our gun laws will change.”

Two others are in custody. None of those detained had a criminal record.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Ms Ardern said that the guns used by the attacker appeared to have been modified, and that the suspect’s car was full of weapons, suggesting “his intention to continue with his attack”.

The prime minister also spoke about the importance of reuniting relatives with their loved ones “as quickly as possible”, and said that bodies were still being removed from the Al Noor mosque – the site of the first attack.

She added that financial support would be made available to those who had lost someone on whom they were financially dependent.

The first victim of Friday’s attack has been named by his family as Daoud Nabi, 71, who moved to New Zealand from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

A total of 48 people were wounded in the shootings. Among those injured are two young boys – aged two and 13. Eleven of those being treated at Christchurch Hospital are in a critical condition in intensive care, chief of surgery Greg Robertson said.

Bangladesh, India and Indonesia all say some of their citizens were killed in the shooting and others are unaccounted for.

On Saturday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel expressed “revulsion” at this “act of terrorism” and voiced solidarity with the victims.

The main suspect

The main suspect had “travelled around the world with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand”, Prime Minister Ardern told reporters.

“I would not describe him as a long-term resident,” she said, without formally identifying him.

“The offender was in possession of a gun licence. I’m advised that this was acquired in November of 2017,” Ms Ardern said.

She said New Zealand intelligence services had been stepping up investigations into far-right extremists, but added: “The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community nor the police for extremism.”

In the wake of Saturday’s attacks, social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.

The man says he began planning an attack after visiting Europe in 2017 and being angered by events there.

The document is called “The Great Replacement” – a phrase that originated in France and has become a rallying cry for European anti-immigration extremists.

What are New Zealand’s gun laws?

The minimum legal age to own a gun in New Zealand is 16, or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons.

All gun-owners must have a licence, but most individual weapons do not have to be registered – New Zealand is one of the few countries where this is the case.

Applicants for a firearm licence must pass a background check of criminal and medical records, including factors such as mental health and domestic violence.

Once a licence has been issued, gun-owners can buy as many weapons as they want.