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Christmas visit to Tarrant prompted fears, says grandmother

“They never told me for ages [upon their return] that he wasn’t in a good place. The place he had, there was no place for visitors. Sharon felt that he was in the wrong state of mind.”

There is no suggestion Sharon Tarrant or Gerald Tory knew that Tarrant was a danger to the public.

Marie Fitzgerald, Brenton Tarrant's grandmother, in her home in Grafton, NSW.

Marie Fitzgerald, Brenton Tarrant’s grandmother, in her home in Grafton, NSW. Credit:Janie Barrett

He remains in an Auckland jail after pleading not guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act in relation to the mosque killings in March.

Mrs Fitzgerald said her daughter was resigned to never seeing her son again, after concluding that trying to visit him “wouldn’t achieve anything”.

Good Weekend examines how Tarrant, a former personal trainer, began worldwide travels as the online ecosystem supercharging far-right extremism around the world was beginning to explode.

Close to its epicentre were the largely unmoderated online forums 4chan and, of more significance, the spin-off 8chan, developed a decade later by New York teenager Fredrick “Hotwheels” Brennan, who has since sold it.

Mourners lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Mourners lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand.Credit:AP

Mr Brennan has called for the site to be shut down, saying whenever he hears of a mass shooting he wonders how his creation may be involved. Tarrant used 8chan to link to a live-stream of his March attack.

The US shooter who killed 22 people in the border town of El Paso on Saturday reportedly posted a four-page anti-immigrant screed to 8chan shortly before his attack. Internet security firm Cloudflare decided this week to no longer provide protection to 8chan, leaving it vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Good Weekend also reports an interview with Pete Breidahl, a former machine gunner in the New Zealand Army, who attended a military rifle shooting event at the Narrowdale range run by Bruce Rifle Club where Tarrant was a member.

Mr Breidahl said he was shocked by the way a group at the event was discussing Australia’s 1996 Port Arthur massacre at which Martin Bryant killed 35 people. He believed one of the men in the conversation may have been Tarrant.

Mr Breidahl shared a Facebook message sent to him after the massacre, the author of which claimed to be a member of the Bruce Rifle Club.

It said: “The last time I was down there the shooter [Tarrant] was there and displayed a horrible shooting style by shooting of [sic] multiple rounds at once and then changing magazines. This set alarm bells off and I notified the club but nothing was done.”

Read the full story in Good Weekend magazine with Saturday’s Herald.

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