A new report into the Christchurch terror attack has outlined for the first time what police and paramedics were faced with when they reached the scenes of the March 15 massacre.
And chilling new images of the man responsible have emerged – with police tracking his trip from Dunedin to Christchurch, and the pursuit that ended his horrifying killing spree.
Brenton Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a four-day hearing in the High Court at Christchurch in August.
He had earlier pleaded guilty to murdering 51 people, attempting to murder 40 others and one count of terrorism.
In December a report from a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attacks was released, making 44 recommendations on a number of topics and focused on whether there was an ability to prevent the massacre.
Then in January Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall said she was yet to decide whether an inquest would be held.
She said that each victim’s family would be supplied with a package of information relating to the event and the cause and circumstances of death.
The families could then write to the Coroner to request any further details they wanted or to set out issues that come within the coronial jurisdiction and which they consider were not resolved by either the criminal prosecution process or the Royal Commission of Inquiry report.
This week the police evidential overview that was being supplied to each family – alongside the individual information about the victims – was made public.
The 53-page document details what the police investigation showed regarding the gunman’s movements on 15 March 2019, and the evidential basis confirming timings, location, and the response of the police and ambulance service.
“The purpose of providing these key events and timings is to identify any outstanding issues the interested parties may have that fall within the jurisdiction of the Coroner,” the overview states.
“The issues identified will inform the Coroner’s decision on the holding of an inquiry into the deaths of those killed in the terrorist attacks.”
Tarrant's drive to Christchurch – new details emerge
The overview reveals intricate details of the gunman’s trip from his home in Dunedin to Christchurch – including photographs of his vehicle sourced from cameras across the South Island.
Police have been able to pinpoint exactly the route he took and where he stopped – including a petrol station in Oamaru where he purchased coffee and food – before he got to the first mosque.
Images were also captured of his car outside the Al Noor Mosque and as he made his way to the second killing site at Linwood Mosque.
He was also captured leaving there, trying to make his way out of Christchurch and the moment police rammed him off the road minutes later.
Tarrant stormed into Al Noor at 1.40pm and at 1.41pm the first 111 call was received by police.
“At 1.42 pm three further calls were received by police. In those calls, witnesses described hearing multiple gunshots from a semi-automatic weapon,”the overview said.
“At 1.42 pm police dispatchers reported a ‘Priority 1 Firearms Event’ of machine gunfire at Masjid an-Nur with several police units responding directly to that location.
“Within 25 minutes of the first 111 call the Police Communications Centre received 68 calls from members of the public.”
At 1.59pm Tarrant had been arrested.
First responders – what they faced inside the mosques
The first police officers arrived at Al Noor at 1.48pm
“One police member stopped to assist a male with gunshot wounds while the other proceeded towards Masjid an-Nur and held position at the pedestrian gate to the masjid until the Armed Offender’s Squad and Special Tactics Group officers arrived a short time later,” said the overview.
“At 1.52 pm the first officer arrived at the front entrance of Masjid an Nur and at 1.53 pm Armed Offender’s Squad permission was given for a four-man contact team to clear Masjid an-Nur.
“At 1.53 pm a contact team of a further five Armed Offender’s Squad members arrived at Masjid an-Nur and deployed.
“At 1.54 pm police on the scene at Masjid an-Nur advised there were multiple injured persons outside and inside the masjid and requested ambulance attendance.”
Then at 2.02pm police confirmed at least three fatalities at the Linwood Mosque and requested ambulances.
“The first responders at (Al Noor) consisted of a mix of uniform police staff and highly trained members of the Armed Offender’s Squad and the Special Tactics Group,” the overview stated.
“These specialist officers initially took control of the first aid and triage process at the masjidain once it had been confirmed the offender was no longer present and the risks had been assessed and were being managed.”
The overview also explains the high degree of specialist training AOS and STG members have, including gunshot wound treatment, trauma medic skills and mass casualty situations.
“At the time of initial attendance there were a mass of reports over the police radio that contained conflicting information leading to the belief that the offender had returned to Masjid an-Nur, when in fact this was explained by the delay in the livestreaming video,” said the overview, explaining the delay which had been criticised by some mosque families.
“This resulted in further clearances being required by attending police of Masjid an-Nur before they could enter.”
The first officer who entered Al Noor’s grounds provided first aid to a gunshot victim in the outer scene at 1.46 pm.
The second officer arrived at the pedestrian gate at 1.51 pm.
They entered the mosque itself at 1.54pm.
“Inside the masjid, police cleared each individual room and confirmed that the offender was not present among those at the scene and that the scene was secure.
“This also involved ensuring that there were no explosive devices or other means of harming people left or set within the scene.
“It is part of police training in response to acts of terrorism that some terrorists conduct secondary attacks on first responders by the use of explosive devices or some other harmful device.
“Police went through the process of assessing Masjid an-Nur as safe for other first responders to enter a total of three times. The first was a clearance to locate obvious threats, the second was a clearance to check cupboards and smaller areas where suspects may be hiding, and the third clearance was due to reports indicating that the offender may have returned to the masjid.
“The third clearance occurred once ambulance staff were inside the masjid.”
Once the first responders were inside they “immediately tended to the wounded, triaged those persons and removed them for further care as soon as practicable”.
“Due to the nature of the wounds inflicted on those who were injured and due to transmission issues over the police radio because of the volume of radio traffic, police ran to the safe assembly point to get ambulances to come to the scene.
“During this time, at the direction of the police, several victims were removed to the Christchurch Public Hospital with the assistance of members of the public in their private motor vehicles.
Ambulance staff arrived on scene at 2.04 pm.
“The first ambulance was granted access to the masjid at 2.08 pm after Masjid an-Nur was secured and cleared by police and after it was successfully communicated that it was safe for the ambulances to have access.
“Ambulance staff commenced first aid treatment and transported victims to the Christchurch Public Hospital.
“All victims were then triaged by paramedics and the initial verifications of death were completed as part of this triage process.”
Lives saved, lives lost
The report confirmed that a number of victims who survived received “life-saving first aid at the scenes by first responders”.
“A total of two victims that were transported to hospital still exhibiting signs of life subsequently died in hospital,” it said.
“Many of those injured had suffered extensive and life-threatening injuries.
“An expert pathologist’s opinion is that those who were killed at Masjid an-Nur had suffered inevitably fatal injuries which meant they would not have survived had they been evacuated to Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department sooner.
“A total of 42 of the 43 victims killed at Masjid an-Nur had received inevitably fatal gunshot wounds.
“The remaining person killed had received injuries which in their totality the pathologist considered to be rapidly lethal at the scene, and therefore not survivable.”
At Linwood the same clearance process was undertaken before first responders could access the wounded.
“Shortly after the police made the scene safe, doctors and nurses were brought onto the scene from an adjoining medical centre to assist with some victims being transported directly to hospital by police vehicle.
“When the first ambulance arrived, paramedics took control of the triage and first aid care for the victims.
“All victims were triaged by paramedics and/or first responders with paramedic qualifications.”
Like at Al Noor, the expert pathologist’s opinion was that those who were killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre had suffered inevitably fatal injuries – and even if they got help sooner, their fate would not have altered.
Victims on cellphones as they died
As part of the investigation into the massacre police spent “significant time” exploring and obtaining cell phone footage captured by victims from in the mosques.
“Worshippers had both taken film recordings or, in some cases, called loved ones to warn and advise them of the terrorist attacks,” said the overview.
“The Masjid an-Nur CCTV footage shows victims talking on their cell phones while receiving medical treatment and while being removed from the masjid.
“In one case a victim who had escaped the individual’s initial attack was talking to loved ones when they were shot.
The overview referred to one example of “cell phone connectivity to loved ones outside the masjid during and following the attack”.
They said in that case investigations had confirmed the victim was in fact deceased at the time of that connectivity.
They said that was explained by an “anomaly in the cellular phone and/or connectivity on the day”.
“An expert pathologist’s opinion is that having inevitably fatal injuries does not mean a person necessarily becomes unconscious or is unable to function immediately,” the police document explained further.
“In some cases a person’s organs can continue to function for minutes before they die, and with some injuries people can perform tasks or move about for seconds or minutes.
“These things do not change the inevitably fatal nature of victims’ injuries.”
The information in the overview, publicly available since Monday, will be given to all mosque families.
“In addition to the information provided in this overview, police are able to provide further specific information relevant to each of the deceased victims,” they said.
“For reasons of privacy and out of respect to next-of-kin, police will only provide this information to registered next-of-kin of each victim should they want to receive it.”
Further information that can be made available upon request for each family includes:
• Summary of known circumstances relating to each victim.
• CCTV image of the victim entering the mosque, if available.
•Overview map depicting the approximate location that the victim was located.
•Verification of death.
• Coroner’s Certificate and Release of Body documentation.
• Post Mortem Report.
• Disaster Victim Identification Report.
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