The sentencing of the mosque terrorist in Christchurch, NZ

This was New Zealand's worst killing. On March 15, 51 people were killed at two mosques. This article, by , that was in, tells what happened in the court room . 

Photos: The killer is shown in the last photo, and all 51 victims in the first.

The gunman who shot and killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 last year has been jailed for the rest of his natural life.

Australian national Brenton Tarrant, 29, was sentenced at the High Court in Christchurch on Thursday to life without the possibility of parole on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of committing a terrorist act.

The faces of the 51 people killed in the mosque terror attack in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.

It is the first time this sentence has been handed down in New Zealand. Tarrant, through Crown-appointed counsel Pip Hall QC, did not oppose life without parole.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Cameron Mander said there was no minimum period of imprisonment to sufficiently denounce this crime.

"Your crimes are so wicked that even if you are detained until you die, it would not exhaust the requirements of punishment and denunciation."

Victims in the public gallery, some holding white roses, reacted to the sentence with a quiet murmur. The gunman showed no reaction.

Mander described the killings as "brutal and beyond callous".

"Your actions were inhumane ... You showed no mercy. You are not only a murderer, but a terrorist. You sought to essentially attack New Zealand's way of life."

He earlier asked the gunman if he wished to address the court before sentence was imposed. "No, thank you," he answered in an even and formal tone. He seemed sure of his answer and remained expressionless during his interaction with the judge.

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh told the court the gunman was undoubtedly "New Zealand's worst murderer".

As Mander started his sentencing, the gunman sat with his right foot resting on his knee, his arms comfortably resting on his legs. He continuously tapped with his finger on the small table in front of him, listening intently to the judge's words. His face remained expressionless as the judge described how he had callously and brutally killed and injured his numerous victims.

Judge's words for each victim

In his lengthy sentencing, Mander named each of the terrorist's victims, explaining the impact their deaths had on their families.

He described the extreme loss and devastation felt by their spouses and children, and said the families had been left bereft and broken after the attacks. He then named every one of the 40 people who were shot by the gunman, but survived.

Many had suffered physical injuries that caused irreparable damage and will continue to cause them pain, difficulty and health problems for the rest of their lives. None of the judge's poignant and emotive words could elicit a reaction from the defendant.

Those killed and wounded in the attacks were not the only victims, Mander said. The people present or in the immediate vicinity of the two mosques have suffered deeply from the experience.

Abdul Aziz Wahabzadah, who confronted the gunman at the Linwood mosque, has pointed words for the man he calls a "coward".

"The severe and debilitating effect of this trauma and the lasting distress has been profound. Some have been devastated by what they went through and their lives forever altered. Your victims have shown extraordinary resilience, but the damage you have done cannot be ignored."

The March 15 attack

On March 15, 2019, the gunman carried out mass shootings at the Masjid An-Nur (Al Noor) and Linwood mosques after spending months planning the attack. He bought military-style ballistic armour and tactical vests to enable him to carry numerous magazines, and wore this over military-style camouflage clothing.

He went to several rifle clubs and practised with different firearms. He modified the triggers of his military-style semi-automatic rifles to fire faster.

He planned his attack down to the finest details, timing his entry into the mosques when the maximum number of worshippers would be present, and anticipating the time needed to carry out the attacks and travel between the mosques.

The terrorist planned to attack the Ashburton Mosque after leaving Linwood but was arrested on the way.

He initially pleaded not guilty to his crimes and was set to go to trial, but made a surprise turnaround in March entering guilty pleas to all charges.

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh told the court the gunman was undoubtedly "New Zealand's worst murderer". The enormity of the offending was without comparison in New Zealand's criminal history, he said, and undoubtedly the type of case envisaged when a law allowing criminals to be locked up for life was created in 2010.

The gunman had meticulously planned and prepared for his attack with the aim of executing as many people as possible, Zarifeh said.

"He caused permanent and irreparable damage to the victims, their families, the Muslim community and the whole of New Zealand," he said.

Zarifeh said both a psychologist and psychiatrist reported the offender showed no remorse for his actions. In a recent interaction, the gunman claimed he did have remorse for what he had done, but the psychiatrist said the "depth of sincerity" of these claims was difficult to gauge and questionable.

A lack of willingness to rehabilitate, and the shooter's narcissistic and misguided beliefs in his ability to self-diagnose and lack of insight to his offending, was proof of his significant risk of further offending.

Hamimah Tuyan travelled more than 8500km to see her husband's killer sentenced.

There were no mitigating factors to be considered, Zarifeh said. The gunman's guilty plea and his lack of previous convictions, were not enough to divert from a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

Sentencing proceedings stretched over four days this week with 91 victim impact statements being presented to the court.

On Wednesday, Hamimah Tuyan, the widow of Zekeriya Tuyan who was the 51st victim to die from injuries he sustained in the terror attack, spoke in court after travelling more than 8500 kilometres to see her husband's killer sentenced. She urged the judge to never allow the terrorist the chance to be released from prison.

"He deserves a life of imprisonment until his last gasp, his last breath," she said.

The case for life without parole,

New Zealand's previous harshest penalty was given to William Bell, who is serving a 30-year sentence for killing three people at the Mt Wellington-Panmure Returned Services Association in 2001. Life without parole was not an available sentence at the time.

The Crown has sought life without parole twice in the past 10 years without success.

In 2013, Jeremy George Edward McLaughlin was sentenced to at least 23 years in jail for the murder of 13-year-old Jade Bayliss – the second time he had killed.

In 2019, Paul Russell Wilson, who changed his name to Paul Pounamu Tainui, pleaded guilty to raping and murdering Nicole Marie Tuxford, 27. He was given a 28-year non-parole term.

At the time of the killing, Wilson was on parole for the 1994 murder of his ex-girlfriend Kimberly Jean Schroder, 21, on the West Coast.

Both offenders' later crimes happened in Christchurch.

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Thursday, 27 January 2022