Sister’s visit may have prompted NZ shooter’s guilty plea
IT'S been speculated the New Zealand mosque shooter, who has unexpectedly pleaded guilty to killing 51 worshippers and injuring dozens, may have been prompted to change the plea following a visit from his Coffs Coast based sister.
Brenton Tarrant last week appeared via video link at Christchurch High Court where he reversed his not-guilty pleas to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a terrorism charge in relation to the horrific attacks at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 last year.
NZ Police have said the hearing was hastily organised after the shooter requested to be brought before the court through his lawyer.
According to NZ media outlets the 29-year-old terrorist, who grew up in Grafton, had been visited in prison by his sister Lauren within the two weeks prior to his court appearance.
He is being kept in solitary confinement at an Auckland prison.
Lauren is a musician from Sandy Beach, and had appeared in local news reports in previous years as a drummer in a local rock band.
Her home was the subject of counter-terrorism investigations following the attacks, with police seen scouring through a van on the property.
Police also executed a search warrant at her mother Sharon's home in Lawrence the same day.
The gunman, who livestreamed the attack, had shockingly pleaded not guilty to all charges and was previously listed to stand trial on June 2.
NZ media outlet Stuff has reported Lauren's visit may have been one of the factors prompting the shooter's change of plea, also suggesting the coronavirus lockdown would have resulted in a delay to his trial meaning he was facing the prospect of spending more time in solitary confinement.
During the hearing last week, however, Justice Cameron Mander said Tarrant would not be sentenced until court proceedings return to normal in order to allow victims and their families to attend.
"The entering of guilty pleas represents the very significant step toward bringing finality to this criminal proceeding," Justice Mander said.
"There is no intention to sentence the defendant before the court returns to its normal operation and at a time when the victims and their families can attend court in person."
Justice Mander remanded Tarrant in custody but has not yet set a date for the sentencing hearing.