March 25 (UPI) — New Zealand mosque shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant on Wednesday changed his plea to guilty on all 92 counts related to the attack that killed 51 people last year.
Tarrant, 29, pleaded guilty to 51 murder charges, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act in relation to the shootings at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
The court did not immediately set a date for when sentencing on the charges will take place.
Tarrant entered his plea over an audio-visual link to a scaled-down hearing in Christchurch High Court.
New Zealand is currently on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and so the hearing was closed to the public and no victims were invited to attend. Imam Gamal Fouda of Masjid Al Noor and Imam Alabi Lateef from Linwood Islamic Centre were asked to witness the proceedings.
“It is regrettable that the COVID-19 restrictions that presently apply do not permit victims and their families to travel to be present in the courtroom when the defendant entered his pleas of guilty,” Judge Cameron Mander said.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the guilty may provide some relief for those whose “lives were shattered by what happened on March 15.”
“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial,” she said in a statement.
Tarrant in June pleaded not guilty to the 92 charges and was set to go to trial after Mander said the court had received assessment’s indicating he was mentally fit.