In a blistering address to the Christchurch High Court, the nephew of a woman killed in the 2019 Al-Noor mosque attacks has spoken of his “utter rage” on learning that the attacker, Australian Brenton Tarrant, was a guest in New Zealand.
WARNING: This story contains graphic details which may disturb some readers.
- Brenton Tarrant is being sentenced in the Christchurch High Court
- He pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder, and one charge of terrorism
- Survivors and loved ones of the Christchurch mosque attacks are giving their victim impact statements
In a victim impact statement to the court during a four-day sentencing hearing, Kyron Gosse, whose aunt was shot dead while observing Friday prayers at the Linwood Islamic Centre, described the defendant as a “low life”.
He said the fact that he was not a New Zealander “didn’t stop him from slaughtering us”.
“He entered into our home with ill intentions and hate in his heart only to repay our hospitality by murdering our family and our guests, people we welcome into our country with the promise of a better life,” Mr Gosse said.
Linda Armstrong was a 64-year-old Auckland-born woman who converted to Islam in 2011.
In an impassioned address, at times angrily pointing at the defendant, Ms Armstrong’s nephew told the court, “this coward hid behind his big powerful guns and shot little old Linda from afar”.
“She never even stood a chance,” he said.
‘I have pity for your mum’
Mr Gosse also spoke of his horror at inadvertently watching some of the video of the attacks.
“He also terrorised me and my friends through Facebook when he chose to livestream,” he said.
“What I saw on that video will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Mr Gosse demanded a severe punishment for the killing of his aunt and 50 other worshippers.
The Australian pleaded guilty in March this year to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act.
Mr Gosse said he now struggles with anxiety in public places as a result of the incident, fearing he could fall victim to a similar attack.
“Your Honour, knowing that a hate-filled low-life like this man could kill me at any time is my new normal,” he said.
Ms Armstrong’s daughter Angela, her only child, also addressed the court, breaking down in tears at one point while reading her victim impact statement.
She told the gunman “you robbed me of my mother”, and said she hoped he would never again feel the warmth of his own mother’s embrace.
“While I have pity for your mum, I have no emotion for you. You are nothing,” Angela said.
“I therefore challenge Tarrant to use his remaining lifetime to consider the beauty in diversity and freedom that he sought to destroy.”
‘You took him away, he was three’
The court also heard graphic accounts of the immediate aftermath of the shootings, when survivors were surrounded by dead and dying worshippers.
Nathan Smith, a 46-year-old Muslim convert originally from England, spoke of trying to help the youngest victim of the attacks.
“I held a three-year-old boy in my arms hoping he was still alive. He was not,” he said.
“You took him away, he was three.”
Mr Smith, whose wife is Palestinian, said he was “white, Muslim and proud.”
He said his faith was stronger since the attacks, but said since then he found it difficult to sleep and to trust people.
The survivors and families have also been scathing of the gunman in their victim impact statements.
Farisha Razak, whose father was killed in the attacks, used her time in court to describe the gunman as a “loser” who did not deserve to see the light of day again.
“You are a monster and you didn’t accomplish anything,” Ms Razak told the court.
“Nobody wants you buddy, you have brought shame to everybody that knew you.
“Muslims are not bad people. Get it in your thick head, they are the first people to help you.”
Wife honours hero husband who died saving others
Ambreen Naeem, who lost her husband Naeem Rashid and 21-year-old son Talha Naeem in the attacks, asked for her victim impact statement to be read by a victims’ support officer.
In it, the 45-year-old widow described her grief as a “lifetime struggle”.
“I am scared to go for a walk because this evil action may have inspired others … I cannot go freely for a walk in this free society.”
Earlier in the sentencing hearing, Crown Prosecutor Barnaby Hawes singled out Naeem Rashid for courageously lunging at the gunman inside Al Noor mosque’s main prayer room, giving other worshippers time to escape.
For his actions, he has been recognised with Pakistan’s highest civilian bravery honour.
“Naeem was the bravest person on Earth,” Ms Naeem said in her statement.
“He fearlessly tried to counter the cowardly attacker whose only strength was weapons.
“Every time I think of [the gunman] I think of the biggest loser and for myself and my family, I feel victorious. He has made us stronger and more positive.”
Dozens more victim impact statements are due to be read to the court from families of those killed as well as survivors of the attacks, before Justice Cameron Mander hands down the gunman’s sentence on August 27.
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