Mosque shooter’s sentencing opens old wounds
THE sentence hearing for Christchurch mass shooter Brenton Tarrant begins today in another chapter of one of the darkest days in New Zealand's history.
Tarrant, 29, from Grafton, plead guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of committing a terrorist act over his attacks on two mosques on March 15, 2019 that were live-streamed on Facebook.
The attack is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history, and in the days following the shooting, Tarrant's former hometown of Grafton became the epicentre for national and international media.
"Our hearts have broken, the tears have streamed, the shock is setting in, we cry with the people of Christchurch and New Zealand," former mayor Richie Williamson said in the days after the massacre.
"An attack on New Zealand is an attack on us all."
The Tarrant family were overwhelmed by an outpouring of love and support by friends and colleagues following the tragedy but most of these messages went unanswered after the family ceased all contact with the outside world.
Investigations into Tarrant's background and time growing up in Grafton by Four Corners described the white supremacist as awkward, obsessed with computer games and bullied over his weight before taking up an interest in weights.
International Security consultant Neil Fergus said the gunman fitted a typical profile of white supremacists and right-wing extremists.
"That more often than not have not achieved any particular success in terms of their professional or personal lives," Mr Fergus said. "In a sense you can say that what they're looking for is something to take their frustrations out with."
Tarrant also lost direction in life after his father Rodney died from cancer and after his death he immersed himself in the ugliest parts of the internet, where he became radicalised.
His pathway to New Zealand's darkest day took him around the world, where he integrated with Muslims before sharing intel with white supremacist groups on the dark web.
Initially pleading not guilty, the shock plea reversal came just over a year since his heinous act of terror.
It's believed a visit from Tarrant's sister may have prompted the change in plea.
Tarrant's sentencing hearing in the NZ High Court is expected to take three days. It is expected Justice Cameron Mander will impose a life sentence for the massacres.
Justice Mander has taken extreme measures to prevent the far-right terrorist from using his sentencing as an opportunity to spread his hate, and warned there would be no live reporting of the sentencing hearing permitted.
"The number of people directly impacted by the events of March 15, 2019 number in the hundreds - those whose lives were affected in some way number in the thousands," Justice Mander said.
"Provision is being made for victims and their families who are unable to attend court in person to view the hearing remotely."