Christchurch gunman sentenced to life in prison without parole

Christchurch shooter donated thousands to far-right groups and websites before attack, report shows

Brenton Tarrant made several donations to Generation Identity white nationalist group

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 08 December 2020 17:56

The Christchurch attacker donated thousands of pounds to international far-right groups and websites before carrying out his massacre, a report from a public inquiry has revealed.

Brenton Tarrant, 30, murdered 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city in March 2019.

The gunman, who is Australian, was sentenced in August to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to 92 counts of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

A royal commission of inquiry into the terror attack detailed his use of right-wing internet forums, social media and YouTube videos to form his white nationalist views.

It found Tarrant had made at least 16 donations to international far-right groups, individuals and media outlets since 2017, and had most likely made more that could not be proved.

He had supported different European factions of the Generation Identity white nationalist group, as well as its Austrian leader Martin Sellner.

Tarrant also gave money to websites including the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer and Rebel Media, which employed Tommy Robinson and prominent white genocide conspiracy theorists including Lauren Southern around the time.

The donations amounted to almost A$6,600 (£3,700), without including five payments made in Bitcoin.

“During our interview with him, the individual indicated he had donated to more organisations than those we have listed,” the royal commission concluded. “It is distinctly possible therefore that he made donations of which we are not aware.”

The largest donations were made from September 2017 onwards, during a period where the report said Tarrant was preparing for his attack.

“By the time the individual arrived in New Zealand in August 2017 he intended to commit a terrorist attack,” it added. 

“This was the primary focus of his life in New Zealand.  It involved, amongst other things, equipping himself with weapons, developing firearms expertise, bulking up at a gym, identifying targets and planning.”

Four days of almost unendurable hearings at the barricaded court in New Zealand, ended overnight with a sentence of life in prison for Brenton Tarrant, without the chance of parole

The largest chunk of money – A$4,500 (£2,500) – was given to the European-wide Generation Identity white nationalist group.

The title of Tarrant’s manifesto, which was posted to messaging board 8chan before the shooting, was taken directly from the organisation’s core ideology.

“The great replacement” theory, created by the French white nationalist Renaud Camus, claims that white Europeans are being replaced by non-whites.

Tarrant donated to Generation Identity’s French and German branches, as well as sending his largest single donation of A$2,300 (£1,300) to its Austrian leader Sellner.

The report said Tarrant had encouraged people to donate to Sellner online and wrote an email to him after making his donation in January 2018.

“Keep up the great work, it will be a long road to victory but with every day our people are growing stronger,” Tarrant wrote.

In an exchange published in the royal commission’s report, Sellner replied saying Tarrant had given him “energy and motivation”, and invited him for a coffee or beer if he travelled to Vienna.

Tarrant extended the same offer if Sellner visited Australia or New Zealand, but the report said there was no evidence the pair met in Austria when Tarrant visited the country twice in 2018. 

“There is no evidence to suggest they did meet and by this stage we think it unlikely that the individual would have wished to do anything that might attract the attention of international intelligence and security agencies,” it added.

Sellner denied any connection with Tarrant or the attack, saying in a video released afterwards that he would donate the shooter’s money to charity.

“I’m not a member of a terrorist organisation,” he added. “I have nothing to do with this man, other than that I passively received a donation from him.”

Tarrant had made smaller donations to numerous right-wing news outlets, including Freedomain Radio, which was created by white nationalist Stefan Molyneux.

He also made three Bitcoin payments to the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website.

In September 2017, Tarrant paid A$107 (£60) to the Canadian website Rebel Media, which had correspondents including English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson at the time.

Rebel had previously employed prominent “white genocide” conspiracy theorists including Faith Goldy, Jack Posobiec and Lauren Southern, who was banned from entering the UK alongside Sellner in March 2018.

Following the move, Robinson read out Sellner’s planned speech in London’s Hyde Park.

Robinson’s videos for the Rebel were dominated by anti-Islam content, as well as grooming gangs and criticism of politicians including the London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Generation Identity ran a high-profile campaign to ‘defend Europe’ against migrants in 2017

Tarrant wrote about grooming gangs in his manifesto and wrote “for Rotherham” on his ammunition. He also urged people to kill Khan.

He cited the Finsbury Park terror attacker Darren Osborne, who was inspired by Robinson, as an idol for “taking a stand against ethnic and cultural genocide”.

Other inspirations cited by Tarrant include the British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley and far-right terrorists including Norway shooter Anders Breivik.

Tarrant, frequently hailed as a “saint” by white nationalists, has inspired several other shootings including in California, Texas and Norway, as well as a terrorist stabbing in the UK.

The royal commission said that as well as viewing far-right content online, he also used the internet to buy extremist books and accessories.

The killer “took a number of steps intended to minimise his digital footprint” and hamper investigations, and his computer’s hard drive has never been found.

Tarrant told investigators that he began to “think politically” aged 12 after years of unsupervised internet access and gaming, and had expressed racist ideas from a young age.

Apart from a stint as a personal trainer in Australia, he did not work and lived off a A$457,000 (£254,000) inheritance from his father, who killed himself in 2010 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The report said Tarrant travelled widely “because he could and had nothing better to do”, before moving to New Zealand and starting to plan his attack in August 2017.

He only had superficial interactions with people at a gym and the rifle club where he practised rapid-fire shooting, and potential clues to his plot were missed when he was treated at hospital in July 2018 for injuries from a firearms accident.

Tarrant was found “fit and proper” to hold a gun licence after presenting a gaming friend and his father as character references, and police admitted they should have considered whether they “knew the individual well enough”.

The report also found that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service had chosen to concentrate on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism inspired by Isis at the expense of other threats.

The report made 44 recommendations but concluded that there was no plausible way Tarrant's plans could have been detected “except by chance”.