Christchurch mosque attack: The gunman's movements before March 15

Warning: This article contains details that may be distressing for some readers.

A report into the Christchurch mosque shooting has found the gunman was planning an attack almost as soon as he moved to New Zealand in 2017.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry report made public on Tuesday reveals the Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant also displayed "racist behaviour" from a young age, before eventually mobilising to violence.

He arrived in New Zealand on August 17, 2017. From there he was able to obtain a firearms license before legally obtaining guns and ammunition.

While in New Zealand, he made at least 14 donations to far-right groups and individuals totalling more than $6000.

He had planned for the attack in August 2019 but ran out of money so moved it forward to March 15. 

The gunman wasn't being tracked at all. The Royal Commission found the only information that could have alerted them to a potential terror attack was the email he sent eight minutes before the shooting. 

But the Commission described the police gun licensing system as "lax, open to easy exploitation" and "gamed" by the terrorist.

"Within a few days of arrival, he moved to Dunedin and from this time, his life was largely devoted to planning and preparing for the terrorist attack," an executive summary of the Royal Commission report says.

Another factor the Commission considered was that Tarrant, only identified in the report as "the individual", was "methodical and single-minded" in planning the attack.

It was concluded by the Royal Commission he could "present well and conduct himself in a way that did not attract suspicion".

"He was not identified as someone who posed a threat," the report says.

According to the report, the gunman started using the online platform 4chan, often used for hate speech, from age 14. The Royal Commission believes exposure to such content contributed to his actions on March 15.

He was also a heavy gamer from a young age and played multiplayer role-playing and shooting games.

"The individual began expressing racist ideas from a young age, including at school and when referring to his mother's then-partner's Aboriginal ancestry," the Commission states.

"He was twice dealt with by one of his high school teachers … in respect of anti-semitism."

The Commission says that when the terrorist was 16 or 17 his father, Rodney Tarrant, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

"As Rodney Tarrant's health deteriorated he needed palliative care and in April 2010 he died by suicide at home. Information provided to Australian Federal police after the terror attack indicated the individual 'discovered' his father's body, having previously agreed with his father that he would do so."

It's understood the terrorist received "limited" counselling following the death of his father, the Commission says.

Following Rodney's death, about AU$457,000 (NZ$483,000) was given to his son and the same amount to his daughter, Lauren Tarrant.

"The individual continued to play video games regularly after his father's death. He often played online with a group of people including… a New Zealander whom he had met on the internet."

During the games, the terrorist would openly express far-right and racist views, the Commission says.

It was in 2013 when he first travelled to New Zealand - where he met his "gaming friend" in-person for the first time.

"The individual spent approximately two weeks travelling around New Zealand in a campervan," the Commission says.

"On the individual's return from New Zealand, he drove a van around Australia for about nine months between May 2013 and February 2014. During his travels, he visited Port Arthur in Tasmania."

Further international travel

The Royal Commission report reveals Tarrant travelled extensively between 2014 and 2017. According to the inquiry, he continued to use the internet during his travels and communicated with his mum and sister.

During this time, he also visited right-wing internet forums and YouTube channels, the Commission says.

The terrorist also posted threatening comments. According to the Commission, there's no evidence he met with violent extremists during his travels.

He told family members and his gaming friend he'd been mugged while in Africa, which was seen as a contributing factor to the intensity of his racism. The Commission's investigation found he arrived in Kenya from Scotland on June 19, 2017, before moving to Tanzania, Malawi (transit), Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Botswana again, Namibia, before finishing in South Africa on August 2. He travelled to the UAE on August 8, before heading back to Australia on August 10.

"Sharon Tarrant [mother] considers that the more the individual travelled, the more racist he became," the report says.

"This sentiment was echoed by his gaming friend."

Tarrant was a changed person when he returned to Australia for a month in 2016 after travelling around Asia and parts of Europe, according to his sister.

"After the terrorist attack, Sharon Tarrant told the Australian Federal police that in early 2017, she felt the individual's racism was becoming more extreme," the Commission says. "She began to have concerns for his mental health."

Tarrant's social media use ranged from being one of the 120,000 followers of the United Patriots Front Facebook page - a far-right Australian group - to sending threats to an Australian critic of that group.

He made donations to right-wing organisations Freedomain Radio, founded by far-right Canadian Stefan Molyneux, and white supremacist think-tank the National Policy Institute, in January 2017.

It was after this he first made contact with Otago's Bruce Rifle Club. "On January 21, 2017, the individual emailed Bruce Rifle Club enquiring whether the club was still open."

And the reason for his interest in firearms, according to the Commission, was clear: "As his actions after he arrived show, his only interest in firearms was to develop proficiency in their use to carry out a terrorist attack.

"We are satisfied that by the time the individual arrived in New Zealand in August 2017 he intended to commit a terrorist attack.

"This was the primary focus of his life in New Zealand.

"The individual remained in contact with his mother and sister. He visited them in Australia and his mother visited them in Dunedin… By the time of her visit - the individual was starting to finalise his plan to carry out a terrorist attack and he was fixated on what lay ahead."

Police analysis in the aftermath of the shootings shows the terror attack was entirely self-funded by Tarrant himself, at a cost of NZ$60,000.

And the Commission found that from a very early stage - the evening of March 15 - police were satisfied he acted alone.

The inquiry found the terrorist was a "lone actor" who took advantage of New Zealand’s lax regulation of semi-automatic firearms.

According to the report, the risk a terrorist could exploit loose gun controls was identified as far back as 2011.

"He had his own money and did not require outside funding," the report says.

"We know what equipment he used and how he paid for it.

"For these reasons, we conclude that the individual is appropriately labelled a lone actor."

Other movements before the crime:

  • March 11, 2019 - Obtained walk-through video footage of the Al Noor Mosque from a public Facebook page
  • March 13, 2019 - Posted links to extreme right-wing material on Facebook and Twitter
  • March 14, 2019 - Uploaded his manifesto to a file-hosting website
  • March 14, 2019 - Spoke to his mother by phone for 28 minutes and sister for 16 minutes
  • March 15, 2019, 6:26am - Posted on Twitter links to where his manifesto could be found
  • March 15, 2019, 1:31pm - Texts his family detailing how they should deal with the media
  • March 15, 2019, 1:41pm - Police receive the first 111 call. The terrorist has carried out his attack at Al Noor Mosque. From there, he drove to Linwood Mosque where he opened fire again.