Last year’s Christchurch mass shooting was the deadliest attack in New Zealand’s recent history. A total of 51 people were killed in two mosques.
All eyes were going to be on gunman Brenton Tarrant’s trial in June. The families of victims had asked for it to be held after the holy month of Ramadan so they could attend.
But all of this changed today when the 29-year-old Australian pleaded guilty to all charges. Survivors could not be there, however, because New Zealand is in lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The judge said the restrictions were regrettable, but added the killer would not be sentenced until victims’ relatives and survivors could be there in person. Earlier this month, a memorial marking the attack’s anniversary was cancelled.
Aya Al-Umari’s brother Hussein was killed at Al Noor mosque. I met her and her parents in Christchurch two weeks ago. They said they were looking forward to the trial but also dreading it and the prospect of seeing the killer.
“We’re all a bit stunned,” Aya told me today. “It’s a shame we’re stuck at home in this lockdown.”