New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Sunday that the body of “at least one victim” of Friday’s mass shooting at two mosques will be given to family members Sunday night.
Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall said her office is “working as quickly as possible” to make sure the office returns the right body to the right family. “There could be nothing worse,” she said than delivering the wrong body to a family.
Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha said Sunday that his office has met with leaders of the Muslim community to help them understand the lengthy autopsy process necessary for a criminal investigation, because it is traditional in Islam to bury a body within 24 hours after death.
The government hopes to return all victims’ bodies to their families by Wednesday. A preliminary list of victims has been released to families, police said.
Manifesto sent minutes before attacks
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that she was one of more than 30 recipients of a 74-page white nationalist manifesto emailed by shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant nine minutes before his terrorist attacks on two New Zealand mosques. He denounced Muslims and called immigrants “invaders” in the manifesto.
She said that it was emailed to her office and that she did not “directly receive it” and the document did not give a location for the attacks.
Ardern said 28-year-old Tarrant, an Australian citizen and self-proclaimed white nationalist who has been charged with murder in connection with the shootings “will certainly face the justice system of New Zealand.”
Earlier Ardern called the mass shooting “an extraordinary act of violence.” She said the shooter had five guns, two of them semi-automatic. All the weapons were legally obtained.
The prime minister asserted several times during a Sunday afternoon press conference that “There will be changes to our gun laws.”
Death toll at 50
The death toll in the mass shooting at two New Zealand mosques Friday has risen to 50 after emergency workers found another body at Al Noor mosqueas they removed the victims. Forty-two people were killed at Al Noor, seven at Linwood mosque and one person died later at a hospital.
Ardern said 34 people remain hospitalized after being wounded in the shooting. Twelve of those people are in critical condition.
Tarrant, the suspect, was led by two armed guards into a Christchurch court Saturday where a judge read one charge of murder to him. He wore prison robes and handcuffs and did not speak.
Reporters in the courtroom said the suspect smiled during his appearance. A photo shows him holding his left hand in an upside-down “OK” symbol, a gesture used by white supremacist groups.
After the suspect left the court, the judge said that while “there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others.”
Tarrant has not yet entered a plea. His next court appearance is set for April 5.
Others face weapons charges
Three other people, a woman and two men, were also detained in connection with the shootings. The woman has been released without charge. A man in the car with the woman received firearms charges and he will appear in court Monday.
An 18-year-old man also has a court date Monday for possessing a firearm. He is not connected to the couple.
Police officials say they do not believe the men were linked to the shootings.
Ardern said Saturday that Tarrant’s onslaught was cut short when he was apprehended.
“It was his intention to continue his attack,” the prime minister said.
Flowers, mementos, money
Residents of Christchurch have been bringing flowers and other mementos to a makeshift memorial, and an online fund for the victims gathered $684,000 in a single day.
The victims of Friday’s shooting included immigrants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Mass shootings and violent crime are rare in New Zealand, a country of nearly 5 million people. Until Friday, the country’s worst mass shooting was in 1990, when a lone gunman killed 13 people in the small town of Aramoana.