A South Otago rifle club is in "shock" after discovering one of its members - who practised shooting an AR-15 at its range - is the man accused of the Christchurch terror attack.

It has also been revealed the accused gunman, named in court as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, lived in Dunedin since at least 2017 and has been described by residents as both quiet and someone who liked to talk about his travels.

Bruce Rifle Club vice-president Scott Williams confirmed to the Otago Daily Times Tarrant is a member of the club, which is based in Milburn near Milton, and practised shooting at its range.

Members of the club's executive had already given statements to police, Williams said.


From what he could remember, Tarrant used an AR-15 and hunting rifle while practising at the range.

Anyone with a standard firearm licence could own an AR-15 but there were limits on the way they could be configured, he said.

Tarrant seemed "as normal as anyone else'' and had "certainly'' never mentioned anything about his beliefs about Muslims.

The club, which had just over 100 members, was in shock, he said.

"I think we're feeling a bit stunned and shocked and a bit betrayed perhaps, that we've had this person in our club who has ended up doing these horrible things.''

Williams was unsure how many times Tarrant had used the range but said he was always happy to help out around the club, which he joined in early 2018.

"He was always there helping out with any work that was needed around the club or when it came to set up or pack down the range.''

Brenton Tarrant appeared in Christchurch District Court today.
Brenton Tarrant appeared in Christchurch District Court today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed this morning that murder accused Tarrant, 28, believed to be "the primary perpetrator", was a Dunedin resident.


She said he had been in and out of New Zealand "sporadically".

"This individual has travelled around the world, with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand. They were not a resident of Christchurch. In fact, they were currently based in Dunedin at the time of this event," she said.

It was earlier confirmed he was an Australian citizen.

Probe into Tarrant's travel to eastern Europe in November

Bulgarian officials are investigating Brenton Tarrant's recent trip to eastern Europe four months ago.

Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has spoken after a special meeting of security, intelligence and law enforcement chiefs called in Sofia by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.

Sources in Bulgaria have told the Herald that while watching the dramatic coverage emerge from New Zealand, they noticed Cyrillic script and eastern European inscriptions on the automatic rifle magazines found at shooting scenes. They included the names of famous battles and historical figures who fought against Ottoman rule.

Authorities have confirmed that victims with Turkish heritage were among the 49 killed in yesterday's massacre.

Tsatsarov told Bulgarian media in Sofia that Tarrant had been in Bulgaria between November 9 and 15 last year, after arriving on a flight from Dubai.

He had hired a car and travelled on a route from Sofia via Pleven, Gabrovo, Bachkovo, Kazanluk, Blagoevgrad and Pernik, including other places in Bulgaria, the Sofia Globe reports.

"Tarrant apparently visited various places in Bulgaria, including Dryanovo, Pleven, Blagoevgrad, Plovdiv, Asenovgrad, Bachkovo and Bansko," the news outlet said.

"From Bulgaria, he had flown to Bucharest, from where he rented a car and went on to Hungary."

Ardern confirmed today that Tarrant had travelled around the world with "sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand".

Tarrant had talked online about an alleged trip to Pakistan.

The Bruce Rifle Club, based near Milton.
The Bruce Rifle Club, based near Milton.

Tarrant, whose address was given as Andersons Bay in Dunedin, made an appearance from custody at Christchurch District Court earlier today.

He has claimed he originally planned to target Dunedin's Al Huda Mosque.

Police are investigating a "location of interest" in Dunedin's Somerville St in connection to the attack. The site remained cordoned off earlier this morning. A bomb squad arrived just before 10am.

The cordon had since been relaxed.

A neighbour who had been living in the street for about two years said Tarrant had been there the whole time.

A bomb disposal robot arrives as police investigate a property at Somerville Street. Photo / Getty Images
A bomb disposal robot arrives as police investigate a property at Somerville Street. Photo / Getty Images

She said he kept to himself but she saw him around the neighbourhood and going for runs.

A person who worked at the South Dunedin gym the man frequented said he had been a member since October 2017. She had never heard of him raising his views about Muslims.

The attack was a massive shock to members of the gym.

"It's just so crazy. You wouldn't expect something like this."

She said she talked to him reasonably regularly as part of her job.

Tarrant liked to talk about his travels and was often overseas, including a recent trip over the Christmas break.

The man had a strange accent, which she described as sounding like an upper class English accent, with an Australian twang.

A Somerville St resident, who did not want to be named, lived a few houses away from the accused and often saw him working out at a South Dunedin gym.

The resident said the man kept to himself, and when they did talk, it was only briefly.

It was not known if he lived by himself in the Somerville St property.

Other residents on the street said they had seen pictures of the man and his car online and recognised him as a neighbour.

However, they said they did not know him.

Ardern said the 28-year-old man carried a category A gun licence and the purchasing of weapons began in December 2018.

"He was able to legally acquire the guns he bought."

Ardern said the fact the individual got a gun licence raises questions.

"While the national grapples with a form of anger and grief we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers," Ardern said.

- Additional reporting: Otago Daily Times

Tarrant 'fitness-obsessed' in hometown

In the eastern Australian riverside town of Grafton, Brenton Tarrant was – until about 1.40pm yesterday in Christchurch - known as a "lovely" fitness-obsessed local from a respected family.

But the 28-year-old, who attended Grafton High School, a state school, before working as a personal trainer at a local gym, will now be remembered for different reasons.

Tarrant wrote about himself and the attacks in a lengthy manifesto and also on social media. The Herald has chosen not to publish any of Tarrant comments.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the accused was not previously known to Australian authorities.

"He is an Australian-born citizen," Morrison said.

"That obviously leads to an Australian-based investigation and all of our inquiries here will be absolutely shared and communicated with New Zealand authorities."

Until about 10 years ago, Tarrant lived in his family's modest two-storey house in suburban Grafton, a town about 650km north of Sydney, with a population of about 10,000 residents.

He is believed to have an older sister and mother, while his father, a respected local who was also fitness-conscious and competed in triathlons, died of asbestos-related cancer in 2010.

After Tarrant received an inheritance shortly afterwards, he left the family home to travel the world.

In his hometown, former neighbours told the local Daily Examiner newspaper he was "a lovely little boy".

Tracey Gray, who hired Tarrant to work for her as a personal trainer in 2009 at the local Big River Squash and Fitness Centre, said he had been a "dedicated" worker.

She told ABC News that he worked there for several years and left Grafton in about 2012 to travel in Asia and Europe before settling in New Zealand. He apparently offered free training to local children.

"I think something must have changed in him during the years he spent travelling overseas," she said.

"He would train a lot, and some could say quite excessively, but then he was passionate about health and fitness and making those changes in his personal space … I honestly can't believe that somebody I have probably had daily dealings with and had shared conversations and interacted with would be capable of something to this extreme.

"We are all grieving together."

- Daily Telegraph