Brenton Harrison Tarrant has made a shock admission that he was the lone gunman who murdered 51 Muslims at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 last year.
The 29-year-old Australian entered the guilty pleas at a special, hastily-arranged High Court hearing in Christchurch.
Tarrant, who appeared from prison on a screen via audio-visual link (wearing a grey prison sweatshirt, pleaded guilty to all 51 murder charges.
He also admitted 40 charges of attempted murder relating to the two attacks at Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year – and pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in a terrorist act laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
Temel Atacocugu was shot nine times at Al Noor by Tarrant.
He heard the news from one of the lawyers assigned to assist the victims.
“She called me and asked if I had read the text message,” he said.
“I said ‘no’ and she said the terrorist had changed his plea.
“I just said ‘wow’.”
Atacocugu said the pleas were “quite a surprise”.
“This is good news, I am happy – it will save us a lot of time and a lot of stress,” he said.
Travelling to court every day for six weeks or more, potentially giving evidence and the mental and emotional stress that came with that had been weighing on Atatcocugu’s mind.
“Every day having to face the media, every day having to spend money,” he said.
“It is a relief, this is a big win for us and for the community.”
He said he had been “very emotional” around the anniversary but yesterday that dark cloud lifted.
“When I heard this news, I felt good,” he said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the guilty plea would provide “some relief to the many people 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.”
Police commissioner Mike Bush welcomed today’s resolution to what he described as the largest criminal prosecution in New Zealand history.