Christchurch mosque attack sentencing: Victim's nephew describes gunman as a 'coward who hid behind his powerful guns'

Warning: This article contains details that may disturb some people.

Brenton Tarrant is being sentenced at the High Court in Christchurch for the mosque killings on March 15, 2019. The hearing is ongoing.

Muslim victims have spoken of their community's strength and resilience in the face of the mosque attacks by terrorist gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant.

One noted the 29-year-old Australian had been greeted with "Hello, brother" by a worshipper as he entered the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch with his weapons, on March 15, 2019.

Another woman told the High Court in Christchurch, where Tarrant's sentencing is taking place: "He thinks he has broken us, shattered us, weakened us. Little does he know. He has made us proud and fearless".

Tarrant has admitted 51 charges of murder arising from attacks at the mosques in Deans Ave and Linwood, as well as 40 charges of attempted murder, and a charge of committing a terrorist act. 

Angela Armstrong, whose mother Linda Armstrong was shot and killed, was critical of the media coverage of events relating to Islam. She said she had felt guilty because she had misconceptions about Islamic issues after listening to the media narrative. 

Her mother had converted to Islam, "While I am not tempted to convert, I am drawn to spreading what she learned and plan to write her story as part of this".

She told the gunman: "You robbed me of my mother, her love, and strength. I have pity for your mum, but I have no emotion for you".

Linda Armstrong's nephew, Kyron Gosse, said he had seen no sign of an apology nor any shred of remorse from the gunman for his "despicable actions". He described the gunman as "a coward who hid behind his big powerful guns".

He also said he did not seek vengeance because it was not worth his time and energy. The gunman was "a hate-filled low-life" and he asked the judge to ensure that he never had the opportunity to hurt another living soul. 

Linda Armstrong, left, and nephew Kyron Gosse.
Linda Armstrong, left, and nephew Kyron Gosse. Photo credit: Supplied / Pool / Stuff via Getty

Mohammad Shamim Siddiqui said the gunman had "entered into the house of God with evil intentions". He said: "You have killed the dreams of my good friends and family".

The gunman's actions had been "gutless". He tried not to talk about the shooting. 

"I don't want to give you the satisfaction that you want."

He told Tarrant: "Your time will come. Like everyone, you will have to face God".

Zahid Ismail, whose twin brother Junaid Ismail was killed, said he and his wife had seen some of the shooting from where they were parking outside the mosque. He spoke of the loss of his twin, who was a father of three.

He said his own children "will become proud New Zealanders like their uncle was".

Junaid Ismail's sister, Raesha Ismail, said that since the shooting she had noticed more tolerance and acceptance of others within the New Zealand community. She said: "I have strengthened my voice and ability to speak up when it matters, for the sake of social justice. After the events of March 15, I don't have to hide my faith at work anymore".

She had resigned her job as a health educator to work on her master's degree in counselling. 

Brenton Tarrant being brought into the court on Monday.
Brenton Tarrant being brought into the court on Monday. Photo credit: Pool

Ambreen Naeem told of the loss of her husband Naeem Rashid and her eldest son, Talha Naeem, in the prayer room at the mosque. Her husband had given his life for the goodness of people and the love of Allah. 

Her husband had been given the highest civilian award for bravery by the Government of Pakistan - where the couple had moved from in 2010 - and had been mentioned by the Prime Minister in the New Zealand Parliament. 

She said she was now scared to go for a walk because she feared the gunman's evil actions might inspire similar behaviour. 

Since the attack, she had never had proper sleep and she did not think she ever would. 

She thought about the gunman as "the biggest loser". She said: "He tried to scare us, but unfortunately for him, he attacked the most positive people. 

"He made us stronger and more positive". She and her remaining sons would be even more responsible citizens and contribute to this society, while the gunman would be left "sitting in a chamber, with evil plans".

She said his punishment "should continue forever".

Her husband and son had both died while trying to help people, and both were described as martyrs. The court was told on Monday that Naeem Rashid had run at the gunman and crashed into him, causing a magazine to dislodge before he was shot and killed. His actions had allowed several worshippers to escape.

Kiran Munir, whose husband Haroon Mahmood was killed, said the attacker had tried to break, shatter, and weaken the community, "but he has made us proud and fearless".

The sentencing continues.