Christchurch mosque attacks: Survivors recount desperate attempts to escape

Survivors of the March 15 mosque attacks have told the coronial inquest of the absolute terror that unfolded that day and their desperate attempts to escape.

One survivor got out unscathed - but was then shot by the terrorist while hiding in the car park. Another survivor pleaded with police to go back inside to help his dying friends.

Walking in one by one, March 15 survivors came to court to relive the terror that unfolded inside Al Noor Mosque.

Both men speaking on Friday were in the main prayer room when the terrorist opened fire.

"The bullets were coming past me. They were about five metres away from me. I tried to open the emergency door behind me," said survivor Ahmad Alayedy.

But it was locked, and he fractured his ribs trying to get out.

"We started hitting and kicking the window of the door to try and get out.  After about 10 seconds we managed to smash the window of the door and all three of us climbed through," survivor Mohammad Siddiqui said.

They ran to a car parked down a side driveway and hid behind it - but they still weren't safe.

After some minutes the shooting stopped and the two men cautiously emerged from behind the car. But what they didn't know was the terrorist was reloading his gun to come back - and seconds later they came face to face with the gunman.

"He's looked me in the eyes and then started shooting at me," Alayedy said.

Siddiqui was on the phone to his wife at this time, reassuring her that he was unharmed.

"I felt a strong blast against my left arm just below the crease in my elbow. I dropped my phone out of my right hand and fell to the ground. I put my phone onto speaker I could hear my wife asking if I was OK. I was screaming in pain at that time," he said.

Another victim with name suppression told the court he chose to testify today to help alleviate the guilt he feels from not being able to help his friends.

"I feel ashamed particularly in the presence of grieving widows and their children. Sometimes I find it difficult to meet their eyes," he said.

He escaped Al Noor and climbed over a fence only to come face to face with the terrorist, who was back at his car wearing a helmet.

"I thought he is part of [the] army or special forces and killed the shooter. I started to walk to him, I heard a voice saying 'he is the killer, he just killed someone'," he said.

He fled inside the neighbour's house but then chose to go back to the mosque to help his friends.

There, he saw his best friend, Ata Elayyan.

"He was lying down on his face... He was opening his eyes but not responding," he said.

Once outside, waiting for ambulances, he was desperate to get back in and help.

"The police officer told me 'you need to leave now or I'm going to arrest you'," he said.

The most terrifying day of their lives playing out in the very country they'd sought refuge in.

"I would never have thought that anything like this could happen in New Zealand," Siddiqui said.