Aug. 24 (UPI) — The gunman who killed dozens of people in New Zealand’s deadliest mass shooting was in court Monday to face victims and relatives in a prelude to his punishment.
Brenton Tarrant appeared in court for a sentencing hearing, during which prosecutors gave a detailed account of the March 2019 shooting in Christchurch that killed 51 people at two mosques.
Tarrant, 29, an Australian citizen and self-professed white supremacist, appeared to show little emotion as authorities described that he’d also planned to set fire to both mosques and attack worshipers at a third location.
Tarrant pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of terrorism. The court is trying to determine whether Tarrant will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“Losing my beloved son is like feeling the pain of labor in womb again and again,” Maysoon Salama, who lost her son in the attack, told Tarrant directly in court Monday.
“You thought you could break us, but you failed miserably. We became more determined and united than ever. [My son] is gone but he will never be forgotten. We will live his legacy every day.
“You gave yourself the authority to take the souls of 51 innocent people, their only crime — in your eyes — being Muslims. You transgress beyond comprehension, I cannot forgive you.”
The sentencing phase is expected to last until Thursday.
Other victims told the court the attacks left them in great shock and inflicted significant trauma, as they were either wounded in the shooting or witnessed someone else die.
Saira Bibi Patel said she watched as her husband was shot dead at one of the mosques. They’d recently fulfilled requirements for their residency visas and were planning to retire in New Zealand.
“I am in life imprisonment with my sadness and loneliness,” Patel said. “I hate being called a widow, which I do not deserve.”
Prosecutors said Tarrant moved from Australia to New Zealand in 2017 and began plans to attack mosques. They said he eyed various mosques in New Zealand and bought multiple guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armor and military-style vests.