WELLINGTON: An investigation into the 2019 mosque attack in New Zealand began on Tuesday. Relatives of the 51 people who died in the massacre say they want to know whether their lives could have been saved.
On March 15, 2019, white supremacist Brenton Tarrant shot dead 51 Muslim worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand’s deadliest mass shooting.
Assistant Coroner Bridget Windley will open an inquest in Christchurch to “consider what can be learned from this atrocity and to speak for those who died protecting the living.” said.
Maha Galar, spokesperson for the 15 March Whānau Trust, which represents some of the victims’ relatives, said “we need answers urgently”.
“Our primary concern is understanding the truth,” Galal said in a statement before the investigation began. It was an emotional opening, with family and friends filling the courtroom and moving video tributes to each of the 51 victims shown.
Senior Sergeant Craig Farrant then outlined the attack, saying 49 people were killed within 19 minutes, with two later dying in hospital from their injuries.
Detectives said the murder investigation launched after the attack was the “largest” ever undertaken by New Zealand Police and the “scale and scale of the crime was unprecedented in our country’s history”. 55,555 observers were shown harrowing video showing Tarrant’s movements in Christchurch on the day of the attack, including footage taken with a GoPro camera.
Tarant’s first attack on Al Noor Mosque would ultimately result in his 44 deaths.
He then drove approximately 10 minutes to the nearby Linwood Islamic Center, where he killed seven other worshipers.
The inquest will examine the response times of police and emergency services, the medical response at each mosque, whether Tarrant helped plan the attack and whether lives could have been saved.
“This pursuit of truth is critical to healing and closure,” Galal said.
Victims’ families are “united in seeking understanding and clarity on whether their loved ones could have survived,” Galal added.
The murder of Tarrant, a former Australian PE teacher from the rural New South Wales town of Grafton, has sparked fear in New Zealand and global outrage.
Sentenced to life in prison without parole in August 2020 after pleading guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one count of terrorism.
In his sentencing, Judge Cameron Mander said Tarrant’s “distorted” ideology and “vile hatred” led him to murder defenseless men, women and children. Before carrying out the attack,
Tarrant live-streamed his killings on social media and published a manifesto online.
Then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly tightened gun laws and put pressure on social media giants to curb online extremism.
Galal said the victim’s family hopes the investigation will be concluded and ways to prevent such attacks in the future will be identified. “We believe there is much to learn from what happened on March 15, 2019, so if and when a tragedy like this happens again, and we hope it never happens, we all as a community.