Terrorist admits guilt – Why?
Unusual events over the past two weeks might have prompted the mosque shooter to change his not guilty pleas to guilty.
The Press understands Brenton Tarrant, who yesterday pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder charges resulting from his cold-blooded slaughter at Christchurch mosques in March last year, was visited by his sister Lauren, who also goes by the name Rosie Robinson, at Paremoremo Prison in Auckland in the past two weeks.
Their conversation is unknown but Tarrant, who has been ‘‘up and down’’ according to sources, might have been helped by the interaction to come to a decision.
Rosie, a musician from Sandy Beach, near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, shared with her brother a love of metal band Tool.
Also in the past fortnight, the mosque killer received the final disclosure of the police evidence against him, sources said. The scale of the overwhelming case against him may have focused his mind.
The coronavirus lockdown measures might also have been a factor in his decision. The trial, scheduled for June 2, was expected to be delayed and Tarrant was facing more time in his cell under solitary confinement and extended uncertainty.
Massey University distinguished professor and sociologist Paul Spoonley, who is researching the Far Right and the aftermath to the March 15 massacre, said the shooter might have had a complete and genuine change of heart but he thought it unlikely.
‘‘His actions to this point suggest it is not something like finding God but we do not know what has happened inside prison. He was a very committed white supremacist and it would be a major U-turn.
‘‘What is unusual is that a trial gave him the opportunity to articulate his views yet again and he has forgone that opportunity.
‘‘It is interesting to try to get inside his mind but he did something that we struggle with anyway
because your or my moral compass is completely different.’’
Spoonley doubted Tarrant would have been entirely prevented from using the trial to make statements and explain his cause.
‘‘Whether [under severe restrictions] justice could be done or his defence would have agreed, I do not know.’’
Spoonley said the shooter might not have been able to cope with encountering a courtroom made up of victims’ families and had pleaded guilty to avoid that.
One benefit of pleading guilty was he would not encounter the details of the case and ‘‘what would be said about him personally’’.
It was always possible the gunman had an underlying psychological disorder that had been treated, with the result he realised the gravity of his actions, Spoonley said.
‘‘These self-radicalised shooters tend to have borderline psychological issues, if not full-blown ones, and it is a distinct possibility that condition has been treated.
‘‘One of the things about these people is that they are not normally constrained by convention and normal interaction. You need to be a certain type of person to commit these sort of crimes in the first place and [his disorder] might have been untreated.’’
Although sentenced prisoners could expect some different surroundings and treatment, Spoonley doubted the authorities had offered Tarrant an incentive to plead guilty.
‘‘If you have been to our maximum security prison, they are very much about keeping prisoners separate and keeping control of them.’’
He was inclined to the belief no deals had been done as he could not imagine Corrections and the police negotiating. ‘‘Imagine if that went public. It would engender, especially from the Muslim community, an enormous negative reaction.’’
‘‘A trial gave him the opportunity to articulate his views yet again and he has forgone that opportunity.’’
Sociologist Paul Spoonley