Christchurch terrorist pleads guilty
The Australian man behind the Christchurch terror attack that killed 51 people has changed his plea to guilty, admitting he orchestrated the shootings at two mosques.
Brenton Tarrant was charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge over the March 15, 2019 attacks.
He originally pleaded not guilty but altered his plea this morning, avoiding the need for a trial, which was set down for June.
The New Zealand Herald reports Tarrant, who appeared via video link, listened intently while the names of each of his 51 victims were read out in court.
He showed no emotion, the newspaper said.
At one point, he questioned one of his victim's names. After it was clarified by the judge, Tarrant replied: "Oh, OK, yes guilty."
The Herald reports: "The 40 attempted murder charges, which again included the reading aloud of all of the victims, were also put to Tarrant. When he was asked his plea, he said: 'Guilty.'"
The matter will now proceed to sentencing, but a date is yet to be set due to coronavirus containment measures that have halted most court proceedings.
Tarrant, 29, from Grafton, entered guilty pleas for all charges at a special High Court hearing today.
On the afternoon of March 15, 2019, the right-wing extremist livestreamed his deadly attacks at Masjid Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre, in what was New Zealand's worst-ever shooting.
He uploaded a long and rambling manifesto to social media ahead of the shootings.
In it, Tarrant admitted that his actions were terrorism and racially motivated. He also detailed his plan to attack a third mosque, which he didn't make it to on the day.
He also revealed that he had visited the sites in the months prior.
Tarrant was arrested shortly after leaving the mosque in Linwood by two officers.
Later, under questioning, he asked police: "How many did I kill?"
He made his first appearance in court the next day appeared in court the following morning charged with murder.
It was only 36 minutes from the time of the first emergency call until the time of his arrest.
The horrific crimes led to an outpouring of community grief across the country and sparked sweeping gun reform by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Earlier this month, a nationwide memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
"It is hard not to embrace at a commemoration service," Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said.
"Your heart naturally goes out to people and there is a desire, a need to embrace. That creates a risk situation. I fully support the decision."
Following his guilty pleas, Justice Cameron Mander convicted Tarrant of all charges.