Christchurch terror attack: Suspect Brenton Tarrant shows no signs of psychosis - expert

A forensic psychologist has examined the writings of Brenton Tarrant and shared her thoughts.
A forensic psychologist has examined the writings of Brenton Tarrant and shared her thoughts. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty.

The man who allegedly gunned down children in the name of racial purity shows no signs of psychosis, according to a forensic psychologist who has examined the writings of Brenton Tarrant.

Tarrant, charged with murder over the slaying of 49 people in two Christchurch mosques, left behind a 16,500-word document that outlines the reasons for his actions.

Christchurch terror attack: Life of alleged killer Brenton Tarrant

Devon Polaschek, Joint Director of the NZ Institute of Security and Crime Science, said on the basis of the document she did not think he was psychotic.

It is important to point out that Dr Polaschek has not examined Tarrant and that she is basing her opinion only on the available documents online.

Dr Polaschek says that while it is clear Tarrant is susceptible to poor reasoning, his writing is full of arguments, evidence that he was not living in delusional fantasy.

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

"He's uneducated, but he's not a stupid man."

Tarrant, who on his own admission barely passed high school, had made an effort to educate himself.

"The problem is that he is self-educated, and he is self-selecting the information that he is consuming. Reinforcing what he already thinks in a circular process."

Tarrant quotes poetry in the document at least three times, including the work of Dylan Thomas and Rudyard Kipling, along with references to right-wing thinkers.

Dr Polaschek says Tarrant is trying to paint a picture of himself as a thinker.

"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."

The lack of a sense of purpose or worth in wider society was particularly dangerous in young men. Often, Dr Polaschek said, this can occur in the absence of strong male role models.

Tarrant's father died in 2010 at the age of 49. At some point before that his parents separated, although it is not yet clear when, or in what circumstances.

One area where the document began to show evidence of delusional thinking was when Tarrant compared himself to Nelson Mandela.

"I expect to be freed in 27 years from my incarceration, the same number

of years as Mandela, for the same crime," he wrote.

Given an apparent obsession with declining fertility in European populations, Tarrant felt necessary in the document to justify why he had not had children. Dr Polaschek drew attention to the fact that in many parts the document reads like a "FAQ", or Frequently Asked Questions.

In the final analysis, Dr Polaschek described Tarrant as "semi-rational".

"He has more or less constructed an argument, and to find the problems takes some work, it's not obvious. In some of it, though, he is clearly contradictory and hypocritical."