He blinked like he'd emerged from a dark cave.
His eyes scanned the room. Everyone else watched him like an animal at the zoo. As the handcuffs were removed, they wondered what he was going to do.
All eyes were on him. Some for the first time in nearly 18 months. The mass killer. New Zealand's first terrorist.
And when your gaze locked, it would sink your gut. He would fix your stare, briefly, and look away.
His victims looked at him, too. At first with trepidation. But gradually they became more and more confident, one after another. Whispers went around that it was an empowering process, getting up there and telling him just what they thought of him, of his evil, sadistic crimes, how their lives have been shattered beyond belief forever. They heard that a heavy weight might be lifted from their shoulders if they stood there before him and spoke.
They became emboldened in the courtroom.
Wasseim Daragmih started it. On the second afternoon of the killer's historic four-day sentencing at the High Court in the city of his March 15, 2019 terror attacks, Daragmih started his victim impact statement by saying: "Good afternoon everyone – except you," he said, eyeballing the gunman.
Daragmih was wounded in the Al Noor Mosque attack as he shielded his young daughter from the hail of bullets. She was badly injured.
"She was 4 years old at the time ... Thankfully we have survived because you don't know how to use a gun – except from zero point."
At that, many in the court laughed at Tarrant – who himself starting laughing before catching himself and covering his mouth with his hand as he tried to regain his composure.
Too many hours spent watching his sallow face in the dock, surrounded by five burly prison guards, to see if there's any reaction.
Did he smirk at the mention of slain Junaid Ismail's beard pride? It sure seemed like it. Ismail's twin brother glowered.
A quick laugh escaped from the diminutive Australian when one victim suggested he needed a higher chair.
For the most part, Tarrant appeared to listen to the victims.
Occasionally, he gave the slightest of nods.
His eyes widened when one victim suggested he should be "put down".
Other times, he looked totally disinterested.
But there was no real reaction, no real emotion.
Not even when Ahad Nabi, son of retired engineer Haji Mohemmed Daoud Nabi, 71, shot dead at Al Noor, brought up Tarrant's own deceased father.
"Your father was a garbage man and you became the trash of society ... you deserve to be buried in a landfill," Nabi said.
Wearing his NZ Warriors rugby league jersey, he flexed his muscles and said he was strong. And that Tarrant was weak.
He pointed at him, looked him in the eyes, and raged: "You hurt my father, but you never took him away from me – what I mean by this is that you physically hurt but you gifted my father with becoming a martyr."
But there was nothing.
"You are a loser and deserve not to see the light of day," Farisha Razak told him.
"You act like a coward, and you are a coward. You live like a rat and you are going to die alone," said Zuhair Darwish, whose brother Kamel Darwish died at the Al Noor Mosque, going off script on day two.
If anyone got close to squeezing any real emotion from that fixed, stony face, it was grieving mum Janna Ezat.
Her 35-year-old son Hussein Al-Umari, a kind, humble, caring, and hardworking young man, was slaughtered at Al Noor along with 43 fellow praying Muslims.
Ezat weeps every day for him and her family's loss.
Yet, she spoke of forgiveness.
"I decided to forgive you Mr Tarrant because I don't have hate ... I have no choice."
Tarrant held his hand over his mouth as she spoke, nodded, and wiped an eye.
Then it was gone. Back to impassive neutrality.
And even when Justice Cameron Mander jailed him for the rest of his life, and told him to "stand down", he did nothing.
There was a slight, almost imperceptible nod and then he was gone.
Those cold grey eyes will never look at a high, blue Canterbury sky ever again.