The Australian accused of murdering 51 Muslim worshippers in last year’s mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques pleaded guilty to all charges Thursday in an unexpected reversal.
Brenton Tarrant, 29, had previously denied 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of engaging in a terrorist act but changed his plea after a hurriedly arranged court hearing.
“Yes, guilty,” Tarrant told Christchurch High Court via videolink from Auckland Prison.
Tarrant, wearing a grey top, stared intently at the camera while making his plea.
No reason was given for the change, which means Tarrant will no longer need to stand trial over the shooting.
Judge Cameron Mander recorded convictions on all charges and said Tarrant would be sentenced at a date yet to be determined.
“The guilty pleas represent a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding,” he said.
The plea came with New Zealand in its first day of a four-week COVID-19 lockdown and Mander said sentencing would not take place until the court system had returned to normal.
“At a time when victims and their families can attend the court in person,” he said.