New Zealand has commenced an inquest into the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre, where 51 people were murdered by a self-proclaimed white supremacist. Deputy Chief Coroner Brigitte Windley opened the proceedings, emphasizing the importance of keeping the victims and the goal of preventing similar events at the forefront. The six-week inquiry aims to shed light on the incident and explore recommendations to mitigate the chances of a recurrence.
The attacks, which occurred on March 15, 2019, were the deadliest in New Zealand’s history and deeply shocked the nation. The perpetrator, Australian Brenton Tarrant, is currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted on 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one charge of committing a terrorist act.
The emotionally charged opening session of the inquest was attended by family and friends of the victims. It included traditional Maori rituals, a Quran reading, and a poignant video tribute to each of the deceased. The inquiry will examine various aspects, including the response of emergency services and hospital staff, potential assistance received by the gunman, and the cause of death for each victim.
Coroner Windley is not expected to release her findings until 2024. During the proceedings, observers were shown a distressing video depicting the perpetrator’s movements in Christchurch on the day of the attack, captured by a GoPro camera. Armed with semiautomatic weapons, Tarrant initially targeted worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque before proceeding to the nearby Linwood Islamic Centre, livestreaming the killings. The victims, who were all Muslim, included men, women, children, and the elderly. Two individuals later succumbed to their injuries in the hospital.
The inquest will scrutinize the response times of the police and emergency services, the medical response at the mosques, potential assistance in planning the attack, and the possibility of lives being saved. Maha Galal, spokesperson for the 15 March Whanau Trust representing some of the victims’ relatives, emphasized the importance of seeking truth for healing and closure. The families are united in their pursuit of understanding and clarity regarding the possibility of their loved ones’ survival.
Following the attacks, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern swiftly implemented stricter gun laws and urged social media platforms to combat online extremism. A separate inquiry into the shootings revealed that intelligence services had been overly focused on the “threat of Islamist extremist” activity, leading to a distraction from far-right threats. The comprehensive 800-page report concluded that while mistakes were made, the attacks could not have been prevented. Ardern acknowledged the government’s shortcomings and apologized, emphasizing the importance of ensuring the safety of all New Zealanders, regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.