Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

Christchurch shooting: Who is main suspect 'Brenton Tarrant'

The suspect espoused extremist views in a rambling manifesto and had access to assault-style weapons

A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded. Reuters
A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded. Reuters

Video footage and a rambling 74-page manifesto offers an insight into the main suspect in the Christchurch mosque shootings that left at least 49 dead.

A man calling himself Brenton Tarrant shot a 16-minute bodycam video on Friday as he drove to Al Noor Mosque on the city's Deans Avenue.

He is believed to be the main person behind what New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as an "unprecedented" attack on the country. Three other people have been arrested on suspicion of firearms offences but their link to the atrocity is still being investigated.

The video captures the suspect listening to Nazi-themed music, loading and checking weapons and speaking briefly to the camera.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Saturday morning that the "primary perpetrator" arrested in connection with the mass shooting was in possession of five firearms including two shotguns and two semi-automatic weapons,which he appeared to have a licence to own.

She said Mr Tarrant obtained the category A gun licence in November 2017 and started purchasing firearms the next month.

The footage – which has been taken down by Facebook but was being circulated online – also captures the harrowing killings of worshippers during Friday prayers.

In the hours following the attack a manifesto document emerged online in which Mr Tarrant describes himself as a white, 28-year-old Australian from a low income family.

He claims to have made money in cryptocurrency before travelling in Europe and says he began planning the attack two years ago.

Mr Tarrant makes racist, Islamophobic references to "invaders" and what he claims are the risks of immigration.

He makes reference to taking "revenge for Ebba Akerlund" – an 11-year-old girl who was one of five people killed when Rakhmat Akilov, who professed sympathy for ISIS, drove a hijacked lorry into crowds in Stockholm in April 2017. He says he was in Europe during the attack and in France during the national elections.

He expresses distaste for France's large Muslim population and rails "why won't somebody do something" in block capital letters.

The manifesto includes a question-and-answer-style interview in which he reflects on why he carried out the killings.

His footage of the attack further hints at possible weapons training, with one victim hit from more than 10 metres away.

Mr Tarrant begins by filming at least one assault-style rifle and a pump-action shotgun and can be heard saying "let's get this party started". He stops and starts the vehicle several times.

He is clad in kneepads, military-style clothing and fingerless gloves.

His weapons are covered in scrawled writing including "kebab remover", an offensive phrase used in far-right chat groups.

He plays music associated with far-right groups, including a Serbian track associated with ethnic cleansing and a remix of a Waffen SS choir performance, and Fire by 1960s psychedelic rock singer Arthur Brown.

The video shows the gunman walking through a mosque front door and opening fire. He is inside for three minutes, returns to his vehicle to get more ammunition and then re-enters the mosque and opens fire again. The video ends as he drives away at speed.

Brenton Tarrant has bee charged with murder and appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday. AFP/ Pool
Brenton Tarrant has bee charged with murder and appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday. AFP/ Pool

His station wagon-style vehicle is similar to the one dramatically driven off the road by police sometime later but it has not been confirmed if the man arrested was Mr Tarrant.

Mr Tarrant was apprehended by police and appeared in Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning on a single charge of murder. The judge said more charges would follow. Mr Tarrant did not speak during proceedings and did not seek bail.

A woman who said she was a colleague of Mr Tarrant's when he worked as a personal trainer in Grafton said she was shocked by the allegations against him.

"I can't ... believe that somebody I've probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be able of something to this extreme," Tracey Gray told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Updated: April 16, 2019 10:20 AM

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