Mental health tests for NZ attack suspect

Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch court. file photo 16 March 2019Image copyright

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The suspect made an earlier court appearance in March (file photo)

The man accused of killing 50 people in last month’s attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has been ordered to undergo mental health tests.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, would be seen by experts to determine whether he was fit to stand trial or insane, said high court judge Cameron Mander.

Mr Tarrant appeared in the courtroom – packed with relatives of some of his victims – via video link from prison.

He faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges.

He was not required to enter a plea.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called it one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”.

She has vowed to ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles.

What happened in the court?

On Friday morning, Judge Mader ordered that two assessments would be carried out to determine the state of the suspect’s mental health.

The suspect listened intently during the short court hearing. He made no comments.

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Getty Images

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Members of Christchurch’s Muslim community attended the court hearing

The suspect was able to see the judge and lawyers and hear the proceedings – but the camera was turned away from the public gallery.

The judge remanded him in custody, and his next court appearance is now due on 14 June.

How did the attacks unfold?

The shootings happened on 15 March, in what was the deadliest attack in New Zealand’s history.

The gunman first targeted the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch, as people attended Friday’s prayers.

He live-streamed footage of his rampage to Facebook, filmed with a head-mounted camera.

Footage showed the man, armed with semi-automatic weapons, firing indiscriminately at men, women and children from close range inside the mosque.

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Smashed windows at Linwood Mosque

The suspect then attacked a nearby Linwood Mosque, where about 100 people were attending prayers.

Police officer later chased and arrested the suspect.

Ms Ardern later said the guns used by the attacker appeared to have been modified, and that the suspect’s car was full of weapons, suggesting “his intention to continue with his attack”.

She said the suspect had obtained a gun licence in November 2017 that allowed him to buy the weapons used in the attack.

Ms Ardern said the suspect “had not come to the attention of the intelligence community nor the police for extremism”.

Before the attacks, social media accounts in the name of Brenton Tarrant were used to post a lengthy, racist document in which the author identified the mosques that were later attacked.

Victims of the Christchurch shootings

Fifty people lost their lives in the shootings at two mosques in the city.

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