Christchurch terror attack: Life of alleged killer Brenton Tarrant

Who is the man accused of the Christchurch terror attack?
Who is the man accused of the Christchurch terror attack? Photo credit: Newshub / Supplied.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant was born in Australia, travelled the world, came to New Zealand and allegedly committed the most horrific massacre in the nation’s recent history.

Far from an enigma, Tarrant left a well-documented trail: on Facebook, Twitter, in the lives of those who knew him, and in the 16,500-word document that he hoped would spread his ideas on his capture.

That PDF document, which most outlets have chosen to downplay to defeat its purpose, reveals a mundane yet disturbed mind obsessed with the birth rate of immigrants.

Tarrant was born in Grafton in northern New South Wales in 1990/1. His father Rodney, a manual labourer and amateur athlete who competed in Iron Man competitions, died of cancer at 49 in 2010.

Although it has been reported that Tarrant was in school for this family tragedy, the dates don’t match up, with Tarrant at that time already working as a fitness instructor at a local Grafton gym.

"He was a very dedicated personal trainer," the manager of the gym told the ABC.

Tarrant’s mother, a teacher, is still alive, and apparently does not share her son’s violent ideologies: her social media profiles show her as a proponent of positive reinforcement and she speaks out against violence. She reportedly believes in the healing power of crystals.

An early-90s photograph shows Tarrant as a small child being held by his father on a family holiday to Hawaii.

Tarrant has a sister, who is also in the photograph. Tarrant’s parents are said to have divorced at some point after this.

Following his father’s death, Tarrant reportedly received enough of an inheritance to quit his job at the gym and begin travelling the world.

The question of Tarrant’s travel financing is somewhat conflicted, with Tarrant claiming that he received funds from collapsed cryptocurrency trader BitConnect.

Given the self-serving nature of Tarrant’s writing, it is possible he fabricated this windfall. BitConnect, labelled a scam by many, received a lot of media coverage at the time of it’s collapse in early 2018.

Given Tarrant’s later frequenting of alt-right website 8chan, he may be seeking to enhance his image as a successful member of the subculture.

Tarrant travelled the world in a typically antipodean mid-20s ramble, visiting many countries.

Unusually, he toured North Korea, and at some point in his travels he seems to have become a fan of white-supremacist ideas. He writes of visiting western European nations, and becoming increasingly disgusted at the presence of large immigrant communities.

Tarrant moved to Dunedin in 2017 - "to plan and train" - and joined the Bruce Rifle Club in that city in early 2018.

Tarrant claims that he initially did not want to mount an attack in New Zealand, but decided to on the basis that an attack in the supposedly safe nation would shake public opinion more than elsewhere.

Forensic psychologist Devon Polaschek said that from the evidence of Tarrant’s PDF document she doesn’t believe he is psychotic.

"He has spent far too long ruminating on certain ideas - but those ideas are shared by others," she said.

Dr Polaschek, who is also Joint Director of the NZ Institute of Security and Crime Science, says Tarrant falls clearly into a group of young white men susceptible to "errors of thinking".

"From what I have seen he typifies a segment of the population at risk of terrorism - working class European young men, who are vulnerable to feeling redundant, and can’t engage with any of the great things happening in society."

She said Tarrant did not expect to die in the attack, and that his document has many contradictions and hypocrisies.