Inquiry into New Zealand’s deadliest shooting to start on Tuesday

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A coroner’s inquiry into the death of 51 Muslim worshippers in 2019 in New Zealand’s deadliest shooting will start on Tuesday, hoping to establish what happened after the attack started and make recommendations to prevent deaths in the future.

Armed with high-capacity semi-automatic weapons, Australian Brenton Tarrant, 32, killed 51 people and injured dozens when he opened fire on Muslim worshippers on March 15, 2019, in Christchurch.

Tarrant released a racist manifesto shortly before the attack and streamed the shootings live on Facebook.

The first phase of the Coronial Inquiry will run for six weeks from Oct. 24 in Christchurch and will examine 10 issues including the response by emergency services and hospital staff, whether Tarrant had direct assistance from any other person and the cause of death for each of the deceased.

The inquiry is a legal process required by New Zealand law to examine unexpected deaths and receives input from medical examiners, police, first responders and other witnesses to the death.

“A Coronial Inquiry is a collaborative process to establish the truth of what occurred, with a view to making findings and recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future,” the Coroners Court said on its website.

“It cannot impose penalties or award compensation.”

Tarrant already is serving a life sentence in prison without parole to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the shooting rampage at two Christchurch mosques.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry in 2020 found that security agencies were almost exclusively focused on the perceived threat of Islamist terrorism before the massacre. A number of recommendations were made and the government has been working to instigate them.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)