But, appearing via audiovisual link from a prison in Auckland, Tarrant plead guilty on all counts at a hearing in the Christchurch High Court on Thursday morning. He is expected back in court in May. New Zealand Police say Tarrant will not be sentenced until it is possible for all victims who wish to attend the hearing to do so — something that may be delayed by the current pandemic.
Tarrant’s admission of guilt also comes just days since the anniversary of the deadly attack, which took place on March 15 last year and was New Zealand’s worst mass shooting in modern history.
Guilty plea welcomed
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the guilty plea would “provide some relief to the many people whose lives were shattered” by the attacks.
“Police appreciate this news will come as a surprise to the victims and the public, some of whom may have wished to be present in the courtroom,” Bush said. The two Imams from the Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Center — the two mosques targeted in the attack — were in the courtroom to represent victims, Bush added.
“While the sentencing hearing is still pending, today’s guilty pleas are a significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days,” Bush said. “I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch — the many lives that were changed forever.”
Ahmed Khan, who was inside Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch during the attack, said that he heard about Tarrant’s plea in an email sent by the court to victims on Thursday morning.
He said victims were worried that the trial — which had been scheduled for June — would be dragged out by Tarrant so that he could get extra attention.
“(People in the court room) were really angry and got really emotional because it seemed like the offender was not sorry,” Khan said. “Now we are hoping for a good outcome.”
Aftermath of the deadly attack
Tarrant was arrested on March 15, last year, within 21 minutes of the first emergency calls being received by police.
Almost all of the victims died at Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Center. Only two died later in hospital, including a Turkish citizen who died in May.
The victims hailed from all around the world, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.