The gunman who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques has pleaded guilty to the murders, in a shock change of plea.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 29, admitted he alone was responsible for the deadly attacks in the Christchurch last March, according to local reports.
He has abandoned a bid for a trial, pleading guilty to 51 counts of murder and one terror charge over the deadliest act of terrorism in New Zealand’s history.
Tarrant livestreamed the murders and broadcast them on Facebook, prompting NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to enact sweeping gun reforms and call for global action on online terror content.
Brenton Tarrant captured on CCTV at an airport in Istanbulm Turkey three years before the attacks
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)
According to Newstalk ZB, Tarrant also admitted 40 charges of attempted murder relating to the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre in the South Island city on March 15, 2019.
He was due to stand trial in June, leading to fears he would use the proceedings to air the Islamophobic views outlined in his manifesto.
Instead, in an abrupt change of position, he pleaded guilty before a virtual courtroom on Thursday morning, local time.
Tarrant was due to stand trial in June before the surprise turn
(Image: Internet Unknown)
A nominal May sentencing date has been set, dependent on the country’s lockdown measures
(Image: Internet Unknown)
New Zealand is currently entered a period of lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak reaching the remote country.
Justice Cameron Mander convicted Tarrant on all charges today and remanded him in custody with a nominal May sentencing date, dependent on the state of the country’s lockdown measures.
Reports say none of the survivors of the attack or their families knew about the hastily organised court appearance today, with two Imams summoned to court to bear witness.
Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed, a survivor of the shooting, during Friday prayer at the Linwood Islamic Centre in April
(Image: Getty Images)
Tarrant reportedly showed no emotion as his victims’ names were read aloud to the court, which was convened over an audiovisual link due to the pandemic.
He was said only to have interrupted the proceedings once to question one of the murder victim’s names.
When it was clarified by the judge, the killer replied: “Oh OK, yes guilty.”
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Tarrant was arrested by police outside Linwood mosque within minutes of the attack, which he had broadcast live on social media.
Authorities in New Zealand warned anyone who shared the footage or the terrorist’s manifesto following the attacks would face prosecution, in a bid to stop their circulation online.