Jacinda Ardern praises police who captured accused gunman

Publish Date
Sat, 16 Mar 2019, 8:48PM

Jacinda Ardern praises police who captured accused gunman

Publish Date
Sat, 16 Mar 2019, 8:48PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she expects formal recognition for the two rural community cops who apprehended alleged mosque murderer Brenton Tarrant.

"They were rural community cops, I understand, from Lincoln," Ardern said in a press conference this afternoon.

She was yet to meet the officers, but had asked after them while meeting with police bosses in Christchurch today and requested that they pass on the "thanks of all New Zealanders".

A video captured by passerby Nathan Cambus shows the moment two police officers, guns drawn, approached a car. One officer pulled Tarrant from the car and onto the ground as the second officer provided cover.

"The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle the offender was in," Ardern said.

"It was absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack … [The officers] put New Zealand first."

Ardern also defended the response time of emergency services, which has been questioned by some who were in the mosque on Deans Ave, where 41 people were killed.

Tarrant was apprehended 36 minutes after the first call to police, Ardern said.

"Police responded immediately to the call they received relating to the attack."

Forty-nine people have been confirmed dead in the terrorist attack, and 39 people remain in hospital, 11 in intensive care.

Tarrant, 28, appeared in court this morning and was remanded in custody until April 5. He faces one count of murder, but Ardern said further charges would follow.

Earlier today Ardern led a cross-party group of politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters, Opposition leader Simon Bridges, Green Party co-leader James Shaw and senior ministers on a visit to the Canterbury refugee centre.

There were emotional scenes when Muslin community leaders spoke of their shock at the events of yesterday, and the kindness they had experienced in the aftermath.

Ardern assured them that ACC payments were available for lost income - many of those killed were the primary money-earners in their families - and funeral costs, and that local authorities were working to provide facilities for gathering and worship while the mosques were not allowed to be used.

"It was an opportunity to share the grief of New Zealanders directly with those who have experienced so much loss," Ardern said of the meeting.

Asked at the press conference how she was feeling about yesterday's horrific events, she said: "I imagine I am feeling the same emotion every New Zealander is."

The group of politicians, at the request of the community leaders, also visited Hagley College to visit families and loved ones of those who had lost their lives.

Many were still waiting to retrieve the bodies of those who had died, and Ardern hoped that the police work on the bodies still inside the mosques would conclude by the end of the day.

"They [Police] are assisting to repatriate them with their loved ones in a way that is consistent with the Muslim faith, taking into account these unprecedented circumstances and the obligations to the Coroner," Ardern said.

A Ministry of Education trauma team has also been mobilised to support Christchurch schools.

Among the gun laws that had to change, Ardern said tighter restrictions were needed on the modification of guns that were undertaken in yesterday's attack.

The ODESC committee is expected to brief Cabinet on Monday on a number of issues including gun laws, security and intelligence services, security watch lists and border protection.

Ardern said security agencies had been looking at the rise in New Zealand of "extreme right-wing violent rhetoric", but Tarrant, an Australian citizen, was not on any watchlist in New Zealand or Australia.

She has asked whether any communication had taken place, on social media or otherwise, that should have alerted security agencies to Tarrant.

"Those are exactly the questions that need to be answered, and those are exactly the questions that have been asked."