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File photo, Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in relation to the Christchurch mosque shootings. (Mark Mitchell/Pool via AP, File)
File photo, Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in relation to the Christchurch mosque shootings. (Mark Mitchell/Pool via AP, File)
Image: Mark Mitchell

New Zealand mosque shooter changes plea to guilty

The hastily arranged plea came as New Zealand begins a four-week lockdown to try to combat coronavirus.
Mar 26th 2020, 7:28 AM 27,642 1

ONE YEAR AFTER killing 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques, an Australian white supremacist accused over the massacre has changed his plea to guilty.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.

The killing spree was the deadliest in New Zealand’s modern history and prompted the government to rush through new laws banning most semi-automatic weapons.

Tarrant was scheduled to go to trial over the charges in June. His change in plea came as a surprise and relief to survivors and relatives of the victims.

A sentencing date has yet to be set. Tarrant faces life imprisonment on the charges.

The plea came at a hastily arranged court hearing at a time that New Zealand was beginning a four-week lockdown to try to combat coronavirus.

The lockdown meant that Tarrant appeared in the court from his jail cell via video link and that only a few people were allowed inside the courtroom.

Two mosques in Christchurch in March 2019 were filled with worshippers for Friday prayers when the shooting began.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the shootings at the time as a terrorist attack, saying it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

On the day, “distressing” social media footage of the attack was streamed live on Facebook. 

With reporting from PA

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Laura Byrne

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