The accused Christchurch mosque attacker was obsessed with playing video games, the suspect’s grandmother has revealed.
Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged with murder in relation to the horrific massacre of at least 50 people at two New Zealand mosques on March 15, is believed to have live-streamed a 17-minute video as he was allegedly shooting the mosque-goers.
Grandmother Marie Fitzgerald, 81, told Australia’s 9News that when Tarrant attended Grafton High School in country New South Wales, he seemed more interested in playing computer games than dating girls.
“He spent most of his time playing games on computers in and outs of computers and playing games,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think girlfriends were on the agenda … getting married was too hard.”
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) March 17, 2019
After his father died from cancer in the year 2010, Tarrant travelled to Europe at a time when there was a surge in Islamic extremist attacks. He was never the same after coming back, Fitzgerald told 9News.
“It’s only since he travelled overseas. I think that this boy has changed completely to the boy we knew,” she said.
Tarrant, 28, who is originally from Grafton, did not apply for bail when he appeared before the court on March 16 to face his murder charge. He is expected to face further charges when he next appears in court on April 5.
The country boy had no criminal history and was on no watch lists either in Australia or New Zealand, even though his online profiles have since been linked to extremist material.
Before the attack, Tarrant allegedly posted a 74-page manifesto on the internet, entitled “The Great Replacement,” which said that the attacks were to avenge “thousands of deaths caused by foreign invaders.” Police believe the document contains evidence that Tarrant had planned to carry out the deadly shootings.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the shooting an act of terrorism, and the worst-ever peacetime mass killing in the nation’s history. New Zealand’s national security threat level has been revised to high. Ardern promised that affected individuals and their families will receive financial compensation for months and even years in the wake of the bloodshed.
Counter-terrorism police in Australia raided two homes near Coffs Harbour and Grafton on March 18 in connection with the attacks.
One property at Sandy Beach, 24 kilometres (15 miles) north of Coffs Harbour in NSW, where Tarrant’s mother and sister reportedly lived as raided at around 8:30 a.m. local time. At the time of the raid, the pair were already safe with police in protective custody. They been co-operating with the authorities and there is no suggestion that they have done anything wrong.
Shortly after, police separately searched a house in Lawrence 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Grafton that is understood to belong to the mother’s boyfriend as they sought to formally obtain evidence that may help New Zealand Police in their investigation.
— Rob Morrison (@RMorrison9) March 17, 2019
“The community can be assured that there is no information to suggest a current or impending threat related to this search warrants,” the Australian Federal Police and New South Wales Police said in a joint statement.
The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team has executed search warrants on the NSW mid-north coast in support of the @nzpolice investigation into Friday’s terrorist attack in #Christchurch https://t.co/SGTG1tpbpQ
— AFP (@AusFedPolice) March 17, 2019
The NSW joint counter-terrorism team (JCTT) comprises of the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the NSW Crime Commission staff.
Today, all across Australia, Mosques have had open days, vigils have been held, and the community has come together as one. In Brisbane, AFP officers attended the Islamic College of Brisbane prayer service to honour the loved ones lost in the NZ terrorist attack. #standtogether pic.twitter.com/I1JwWBLQSK
— Andrew Colvin (@AFPCommissioner) March 17, 2019
Police allege that Tarrant had been planning the attacks for two years while living in New Zealand.
During his time, he returned to Grafton a year ago for his sister’s birthday. Fitzgerald said there had been no signs he would carry out the attack.
“He was just his normal self you know,” she said. “We all chatted we and had a meal together to celebrate that occasion and now everyone is devastated.”
She said the family could not believe Tarrant was involved in the attack even after the news began spreading on television.
“First up I thought it could not be then I saw his photo … it’s just not right … it’s un-repairable,” Tarrant’s uncle, Terry Fitzgerald, said.
Police urged anyone with information to contact the National Security Hotline by phoning 1800 123 400.
“NSW JCTT is unable to provide further detail regarding this matter,” police said.
Author: Richard Szabo