Tarrant’s grandmother Marie Fitzgerald in an interview with Channel 9 about her son. Picture: 9News
Tarrant’s grandmother Marie Fitzgerald in an interview with Channel 9 about her son. Picture: 9News

Gunman’s family opens up: ‘We’re so sorry’

BRENTON Tarrant's distraught family have told the people of New Zealand "we're so sorry" for the Christchurch massacre.

The 28-year-old accused mass killer's grandmother Marie Fitzgerald said she was "gobsmacked" to discover the bloody carnage had been unleashed by her grandson.

"We don't know what to think … The media's saying he's planned it for a long time so he's obviously not of sound mind," Ms Fitzgerald told Channel 9.

"It's just so much to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this.

"He spent most of his time on computers … And playing games on computers but I don't think girls were on the agenda, he said getting married was too hard.

"It's only since he travelled overseas that that boy has changed completely,

A year ago he returned to Grafton for his sister's birthday and family did not notice anything wrong.

"He was just his normal self we chatted and that sort of thing and had a meal together to celebrate that occasion," she said.

His uncle Terry Fitzgerald said he could barely believe his nephew was responsible when his face appeared on television.

"We're so sorry for the families over there for the dead and the injured … Just want to go home and hide," he said.

Brendan's other grandmother Joyce Tarrant said her grandson was never the same after finding his father dead following a suicide in 2010.

A young Tarrant. Picture: 9 News
A young Tarrant. Picture: 9 News

"I begged them to take him to get counselling but he never went," she said on Sunday.

He was a bit of a loner, she said, but always made sure he visited when he came home.

Former schoolmates and family friends described their heartache at discovering the once "fat, freckly kid" had unleashed hell in Christchurch.

One friend of the Tarrants told The Daily Telegraph the well-known family had little knowledge of how their son was radicalised.

"They had no idea … His father would roll in his grave," they said.

It is understood Sharon Tarrant last saw her son three months ago on a trip to New Zealand about Christmas time, where they shared dinner a number of times at locations on the South Island.

South Grafton resident Amy Schultz spent her entire schooling in Tarrant's year at both Grafton Public School and Grafton High School. She was struggling to understand the psychotic actions of the man she once swapped friendly barbs with in the playground.

"He was a bit of a class clown, he wasn't nasty, a little bit cocky maybe," Ms Schultz said.

He was a fat, freckly kid, he go teased a lot but he also teased others … I think that's where the whole health and fitness thing came from."

People light candles next to flowers and tributes laid in Christchurch. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images
People light candles next to flowers and tributes laid in Christchurch. Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images

Like Tarrant's grandmother, Ms Schultz also felt the death of his father Rodney, set his life on a different course.

"He changed a lot when his father died, he was very close to him. He went with his father more so when they split up.

"He always got in trouble at school, he wasn't a smart kid or anything like that.

"He never had a girlfriend or anything."

Ms Schultz said Tarrant left town not long after Rodney's death and stopped speaking to school friends, who were now in shock at seeing footage of his mass-execution.

"We all had good friendships with him but looking at that footage … I didn't think he could ever do that," she said.

"I don't think he was ever racist. I think travelling to all those different countries, that's how it's all happened."

A vigil will take place in Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral at 6pm tonight, in memory of the 50 victims.

In New Zealand's capital, politicians will be turning their attention to both condolence and analysis.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared she will push ahead with tightening the laws around gun control and is set to discuss the matter with her cabinet.

There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms, about one gun for every three people, in the country.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges, whose National Party was previously criticised by the Police Association over a failure to tighten gun laws, on Monday told Radio NZ he was open to change.

Ms Ardern will also be asking questions about why the Australian-born white supremacist was not on security watchlists in her country or Australia.

Authorities have confirmed the 28-year-old is so far the only person charged over the attack, others arrested now thought to be not involved.

"He will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand for the terrorist attack that he has committed here," Ms Ardern told reporters.