Christchurch attack: Brenton Tarrant, the main suspect pleads not guilty

Brenton Tarrant
Brenton Tarrant

Brenton Tarrant is charged with the murder of 51 people, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in New Zealand’s deadliest peace time mass shooting.

Appearing via video link from prison, the 28-year-old Australian sat silently as his lawyer read out his plea.

The 15 March attack saw a gunman open fire on Muslims during Friday prayers.

This is the first time a terrorism charge has been brought in New Zealand.

A number of the survivors of the attack and relatives of the victims were in court for the hearing, the BBC’s Sydney correspondent Hywel Griffith reported.

  • How the attacks unfolded
  • Who were the victims?
  • Christchurch suspect charged with terrorism

As lawyer Shane Tait read out his client’s not guilty pleas, a number of those present gasped and became tearful.

High Court Justice Cameron Mander said the trial had been set for 4 May next year, and that Mr Tarrant would be remanded in custody until a case review hearing on 16 August.

At his last court appearance in April, he was ordered to undergo mental health assessments to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

Judge Mander said in a statement on Friday: “No issue arises regarding the defendant’s fitness to plead, to instruct counsel, and to stand his trial. A fitness hearing is not required.”

Last week, a restriction on publishing photos of the suspect’s face was lifted.

‘New Zealand’s darkest day’

The suspect was arrested on 15 March for his alleged involvement in the shootings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, both located in Christchurch.

He allegedly drove first to the Al Noor mosque, parked nearby and began firing into the mosque as he walked in through the front entrance.

He allegedly fired on men, women and children inside for about five minutes. The attack was live-streamed from a head-mounted camera.