The man accused of murdering 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques a year ago has changed his plea to guilty, according to New Zealand Police. He had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges and his trial had been scheduled to start in June.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant has today made a shock admission that he was the lone gunman who murdered 51 Muslims at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 past year.
The accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges during previous hearings.
Judge Cameron Mander has not yet set a sentencing date.
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An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the department was unable to comment specifically on this case and on whether Tarrant could be deported to Australia prior to the sentencing hearing.
"The entry of guilty pleas represents a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding".
Tarrant, who faces a lifetime prison sentence, had posted a social media manifesto ahead of the attacks referring to "white genocide" a term used by white supremacists to describe the growth of minority populations.
Asked how she reacted upon hearing the news, Ardern replied: "I let out a huge sigh of relief".
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Police Commissioner Mike Bush said arrangements for Tarrant's court appearance Thursday had to be made quickly because New Zealand was entering a strict lockdown to combat the coronavirus. It was the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history, and Tarrant was the first to be charged under the 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act.
"I am pleased he is feeling guilty".
Police said Tarrant indicated he wanted to be brought before the court on Tuesday afternoon. Within a week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had passed strict gun reform laws, and a couple of months later launched the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanuel Macron to eliminate violent and extremist content online.
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