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Australian gunman ‘sole perpetrator’ of 50 murders: NZ police

Australian volunteers have flown to Christchurch to help with Islamic burial customs, including the ghusl ceremony of washing the dead, as the morgue was expected to start releasing bodies from Sunday afternoon.

“The [alleged gunman] was an Australian himself, so as Australians we feel like we should do whatever we can do to help,” said 21-year-old Ali Armando, who flew in from Brisbane to take part.

Uddin Mohammed, 31 prays in Hagley Park near he Al Noor Mosque.

Uddin Mohammed, 31 prays in Hagley Park near he Al Noor Mosque. Credit:Jason South

And a number of gun shops reported extra trade and online gun owners’ groups referred to “panic buying” of weapons ahead of an expected ban on semi-automatic guns announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Tarrant remains in custody charged with murder after a brief court appearance on Saturday, as authorities try to establish how the former personal trainer from Grafton developed his extremist views.

Ms Ardern’s office said it was among dozens to receive a copy of his “manifesto” minutes before the attack on two mosques.

A spokesman from Ms Ardern’s office confirmed the document was sent to a generic address not checked by Ms Ardern herself, as part of a bulk email that also went a number of senior New Zealand political figures and large number of domestic and international media groups.

Multiple graves being dug at the Memorial Park Cemetery.

Multiple graves being dug at the Memorial Park Cemetery.Credit:Jason South

The message, received less than 10 minutes before the attack on Friday, did not set out what was about to happen, he said.

“There was no opportunity to stop it.”

The document was immediately sent to security and police.

At a press conference on Sunday morning, Commissioner Bush revealed that ”by the time we were advised of that email, the attack had taken place.”

NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush updated the death toll to 50 on Sunday morning.

NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush updated the death toll to 50 on Sunday morning.Credit:AAP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday that he had “no interest” in Tarrant’s manifesto.

“His manifesto is a weak manifesto of hate that has no place in our country or any other country.”

‘On nobody’s radar’

Ms Ardern has demanded answers from Australian and New Zealand police as to how Tarrant avoided the watch lists of both countries.

Tarrant live-streamed his alleged attacks in social media posts that contained various references popular with online white supremacist groups, prompting Mr Morrison to seek assurances from the social media companies that “this tool cannot be used by terrorists”.

Tarrant made a hand gesture associated with white nationalism during his court appearance.

Ms Ardern said he was not being monitored by either New Zealand or Australian authorities in the lead-up to the most-deadly terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history.

“We are liaising closely with Australian agencies,” she said. “This individual was not on a watch list for either NZ or Australia.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has demanded answers from Australian and New Zealand police.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has demanded answers from Australian and New Zealand police.Credit:Jason South

An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman confirmed “the man was not known to police in Australia for violent extremism or serious criminal behaviour”.

Asked if the former body-builder should have been on a watch list, Ms Ardern said that was the same question she was asking.

“This individual should have been someone that the authorities were aware of and were proactively already focused on,” she said. “Those are the exact questions that we have asked and that the agencies are working on.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tarrant was on “nobody’s radar, anywhere”.

“This is the real challenge when it comes to issues of terrorism. That’s why we need to continue to be vigilant in this area. But there are no guarantees and protections. Hatred and intolerance will seek to work its evil wherever it can.”

Tarrant was immersed in far-right online message boards, posting a manifesto on 8chan before he carried out the attacks, a website that describes itself as the “darkest reaches of the internet”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the Lakemba Mosque on Saturday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the Lakemba Mosque on Saturday. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

He invested in bitcoin and travelled extensively including to North Korea and Pakistan. Tarrant evaded the notice of both Australian and NZ authorities when he moved to the southern city of Dunedin sometime before planning Friday’s attack.

“The individual in question was not on a New Zealand watch list, so that should give you an indication of the level of surveillance there,” said Ms Ardern.

“Any indications, posting communication that should have led to a response from New Zealand agencies, they are exactly the questions that need to be answered.”

Ms Ardern said NZ authorities “were live” to the growth of violent right-wing extremist groups in NZ and abroad but that had not led to the suspect coming to the awareness of NZ agencies.

Mr Morrison said Australia was providing “significant assistance to the police investigation”.

“This reaches well beyond the borders of both New Zealand and Australia, and we’re providing that support.”

Alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant appears before court in Christchurch.

Alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant appears before court in Christchurch. Credit:stuff.co.nz

He said the views of white supremacists “were not new” and “sadly had existed in Australia for hundreds of years” with police and intelligence work in the area flying under the radar.

“These have always constituted a threat. There has always been an investment to ensure there’s a capability to address that element of the terrorist threat in Australia,” he said.

“It hasn’t had a lot of public commentary either in the media or elsewhere but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

The AFP confirmed the NSW joint Counter-Terrorism Team had begun an Australian-based investigation to assist New Zealand police.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been contacted for comment.

Flowers left by well wishers to the Al Noor Mosque.

Flowers left by well wishers to the Al Noor Mosque.Credit:Jason South

with AAP

Patrick Begley is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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