Brenton Tarrant Pleads Guilty To Christchurch Mosque Terror Massacre

The Australian gunman accused of carrying out the Christchurch mosque attack has changed his plea to guilty, just weeks after the first anniversary of the massacre which killed 51 worshippers.

Australian man Brenton Tarrant was arrested after the attacks at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Islamic Centre on March 15 last year. He initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.

But on Thursday, just a week after New Zealand marked one year since the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, he has changed his plea to guilty.

NZ media reported he changed his plea to guilty on 51 charges of murder and 40 of attempted murder, in a court appearance via video link on Thursday. Tarrant also entered a guilty plea to a charge  of engaging in a terrorist act.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019. Image: Getty

The court appearance was arranged at short notice, with police saying in a statement that Tarrant had indicated on Tuesday "that he wished to be brought before the Court". NZ media reported that some families of the victims did not know of the court appearance ahead of time.

"Police appreciate this news will come as a surprise to the victims and the public, some of whom may have wished to be present in the courtroom," NZ Police said in a statement, adding that some victims had been informed prior to the appearance.

"The two Imams from the Al Noor and Linwood Avenue Mosques were present in the courtroom as representatives of the victims, as were representatives of the media."

The process will now move to sentencing. Police said the coronavirus outbreak would delay that "for some time", and that Tarrant would be remanded in custody until May 1, when further arrangements would be reviewed.

"Sentencing will not take place until it is possible for all victims who wish to attend the hearing to do so," police said.

Attack survivor Mustafa Boztas, shot during the assault on the Al-Noor mosque, said he was happy the trial would not proceed, and instead move to sentencing.

"It was really surprising for me to hear that he pleaded guilty," he told 10 News First.

"I think it's a good thing the trial is not going to happen. If it did happen, it was going to open a  lot of wounds, and going to be really emotional."

Boztas, speaking from Turkey where he is on holiday, said other victims are happy the guilty plea meant the trial "didn't drag anymore".