Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern embraced worshippers and left flowers at the Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington as the uncle and gran of suspect Brenton Tarrant spoke out
New Zealand’s Prime Minister hugged mourners at a mosque in emotional scenes just two days after the country’s deadliest terror attack.
Jacinda Ardern comforted worshippers at the Kilbirnie mosque in Wellington on Sunday as New Zealand continued to grieve the 50 victims of Friday’s gun massacre.
Ms Ardern, who has been praised for her response to the tragedy, embraced men and women in the crowd as she left flowers and paused for a moment of silence at a memorial outside the mosque in the capital.
It came as the uncle of Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian man charged with murder, said “sorry” to the victims and his gran claimed the family saw no red flags.
The 50 victims of the shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, on South Island, ranged from children as young as three and four to pensioners.
Some were refugees who fled war torn countries for a peaceful nation.
The victims were fatally shot as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers, and the killings at the first mosque to be targeted, Al Noor, were live-streamed on Facebook by the terrorist.
In the aftermath, a number of tales of heroism have emerged.
Some of the victims sacrificed their lives to save others by confronting the gunman or shielding their loved ones with their bodies.
An online fund set up to help victims’ families and those who were injured has raised more than £2.2million.
New Zealand is in a deep period of mourning as the bodies of the victims begin to be returned to their families for burial.
According to Islamic law, bodies should be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death.
Ms Ardern, 38, told reporters: “It’s likely to be a small number to begin with
“It’s the expectation that all bodies will be returned to families by Wednesday.”
She confirmed a manifesto was emailed to her office and more than 30 other recipients just nine minutes before the massacre began.
The Prime Minister said: “It did not include location. It did not include specific details.
“Within two minutes of receipt it was conveyed directly to parliamentary security.
“Had it provided details that could have been acted on immediately it would have been, but unfortunately there were no such details in the email.”
Thirty-four people remain in hospital with injuries, including a four-year-old girl who is fighting for her life.
On Friday, Ms Ardern told reporters in a press conference televised around the world the attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.
She said the victims had chosen to make New Zealand their home, adding: “They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”
Police said the gunman had obtained a legitimate firearms licence in 2017 in New Zealand, and had modified a “category A” firearem.
Ms Ardern has promised to change the country’s gun laws.
Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder and was remanded until April 5. He will be charged with additional offences, said police.
His grandmother, Marie Fitzgerald, 81, told Australia’s 9 News she saw her grandson a year ago when he returned for his sister’s birthday.
There were no red flags, she said.
She added: “He was just his normal self, you know.
“We all chatted we and had a meal together to celebrate that occasion and now everyone is devastated.”
Tarrant’s uncle, Terry Fitzgerald, added: “We are so sorry for the families for the dead and the injured. I can’t think nothing else just shattered is the word.”