A video timeline of the Christchurch terror attack has been played in open court this afternoon during the first day of a lengthy coronial inquest into the 2019 massacre - including segments of the gunman’s now-banned live-streamed footage.
The aim of the video is to offer a “high-level overview of the events of the day” for those involved in the inquest, helping them better understand the killer’s movements and the initial emergency response.
Deputy Chief Coroner Brigitte Windley said the video - which cannot be republished outside court but can be described generally - was “drawn from evidence before the inquiry” but was not evidence itself nor a “complete account” of the attack.
As the hour-long video played in court, members of the victim’s families, the injured and others who were at the mosques on the day watched in silence, some in tears.
While the specific details of the video’s content cannot be published, the coroner allowed the media to convey that it is a compilation containing various audio and visual content related to the events of the day, including the emergency response.
Within days of the mosque attack New Zealand’s, Chief Censor David Shanks officially banned the gunman’s video - spanning 16 minutes and 55 seconds- labelling it as “objectionable”.
“The video promotes and supports the infliction of extreme violence and cruelty,” Shanks said.
“The video is clearly intended to record, share and glorify the acts of extreme violence and cruelty, namely the graphic mass murder of unsuspecting victims who are powerless to resist.”
While it is a criminal offence to access or share the footage, the chief censor allowed the coroner to screen specific parts of it during the inquest.
In the segments of footage used from the gunman’s stream, all other people are blurred.
This morning, Coroner Windley advised those attending the inquest that the footage would be played and what it would show - and not show.
She said while the content was not graphic, it would likely be upsetting and disturbing for some.
She said anyone who did not want to see the video was more than welcome to leave the courtroom - or disconnect the link if they were watching the proceedings remotely.
The inquest began at about 10am with a powerful and harrowing video tribute to the 51 men, women and children murdered as they gathered to pray in March 2019.
Coroner Windley made a brief opening address about the inquest process and why it was crucial to seek answers, for not just the families of the dead and survivors but for the whole of New Zealand.
She said the objective was to provide answers to outstanding questions for grieving families about what happened to their loved ones - and to examine whether anything further can be done to prevent further tragedies.
“This inquiry presents an important and critical opportunity to also look at what we may learn from this atrocity and speak for those who have lost their lives in an effort to protect the living,” she said.
“This can be hard, confronting, distressing. It takes courage and a willingness to be open to reflection, the possibility of learning lessons and turning truth to power.
“This is an opportunity to consider that the response to such extraordinary events like this could be improved in the future, despite our strongest desire that we never again have to.
“So even if we approach these issues from different perspectives, we all share that common goal of reducing the chances of similar events in the future... I ask simply that we keep in mind each of the 51 people whose lives have been lost.”
The first witness called in the inquest was Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Farrant.
He gave evidence about the criminal investigation by police into the gunman, dubbed Operation Deans.
Farrant said the investigation was “unprecedented” in New Zealand and outlined exactly what police did from the moment they arrived at the first mosque on that terrible day.
He then presented a video compilation of all of the calls to 111 about potential sightings of the gunman or other possible shooters in the hours after the attack.
Police received numerous calls about suspicious people and vehicles in the wake of the shooting.
The inquest heard that on average at Al Noor Mosque, one person was shot every eight seconds - and one every 30 seconds at Linwood.
The terror attack - what happened
On March 15, 2019, Australian national Brenton Harrison Tarrant killed 51 people and wounded 40 others when he stormed into two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers and began shooting indiscriminately with high-powered firearms he had been stockpiling.
He filmed the entire massacre, streaming his deadly actions live via Facebook.
In March 2020, Tarrant pleaded guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and a terrorism charge.
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