WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The daughter of a woman killed in the New Zealand mosque shootings challenged white supremacist Brenton Tarrant at his sentencing hearing to use his life in prison to consider the beauty of the diversity and freedom he sought to destroy.
The daughter of Linda Armstrong sobbed as she addressed the court in Christchurch on Tuesday, the second day of the sentencing hearing.
“You robbed me of my mother, of her love and strength. Likely you will also never again feel the love and warmth of your mother’s hug either. While I have pity for your mum, I have no emotion for you. You are nothing,” said Angela Armstrong.
“While he will remain trapped in a cage my mum is free. I therefore challenge Tarrant to use his remaining lifetime to consider the beauty and life to be found in diversity and freedom that he sought to distort and destroy.”
Tarrant, a 29-year-old Australian, is scheduled to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to 51 murders, 40 attempted murders and one charge of committing a terrorist act during the 2019 shooting rampage in the city of Christchurch which he livestreamed on Facebook.
A murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge can impose a life term without parole, a sentence that has never been used in New Zealand.
The second day of a multi-day sentencing hearing is dedicated to allowing survivors and family members of victims to address the court, in person and via video.
Tarrant sat in grey prison clothes cornered by guards as Angela Armstrong looked at him and described the “ripple effects” of the murder of her 65-year-old mother on her family.
Kyron Gosse, nephew of Linda Armstrong, said the shooter had come to New Zealand as a guest, and used that privilege to destroy a family that had lived here for seven generations.
“Filled with his own racist agenda this coward hid behind his big powerful guns and shot little old Linda from afar,” said Gosse.
Tarrant “stole our nation’s innocence”, said Gosse. New Zealand had been relatively free from major gun violence until the country’s worst mass shooting.
On Monday, prosecutors told the court Tarrant had carefully planned the attacks to cause maximum carnage by accumulating high-powered firearms and ammunition, training at rifle clubs and studying mosque layouts.
- Factbox: Quotes from court hearings for New Zealand mosque shooter
While most of Tarrant’s victims were at Al Noor mosque, he killed seven people at the Linwood mosque, including Linda Armstrong, before being detained en route to a third.
Tarrant, who is representing himself, will be allowed to speak at some point during the hearings, although Justice Cameron Mander has powers to ensure the High Court is not used as a platform for extremist ideology.
Live reporting from the courtroom was banned, and other restrictions were put in place on what the media could report.
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