Otago rifle club 'in shock', accused 'bought gun in Dunedin'

A bomb disposal robot arrives as police investigate a property at Somerville Street. Photo: Getty...
A bomb disposal robot arrives as police investigate a property at Somerville Street. Photo: Getty Images
A South Otago rifle club is in "shock" after finding out one of its members, who practised shooting an AR-15 at its range, is facing a murder charge over the Christchurch terror attack.

It has also been revealed the man, who has been named 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.

A man who gave his name as Brenton Tarrant bought a hunting rifle at a Dunedin sports store in 2017, RNZ reported this afternoon.

The chief executive officer of Hunting & Fishing NZ stores, Darren Jacobs, said no one in any of their stores recognised him from court pictures.

However, Tarrant had a firearms licence and there is a record of a sale in Dunedin. 

"We have recorded a single sale to an individual going by that name in 2017, and that sale was for a bolt-action hunting rifle," Mr Jacobs said.

He said there was no record of selling semi-automatic rifles to Tarrant and his stores don't sell many of those as a rule.

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

Members of the club's executive have given statements to police, Mr Williams said.

He said from what he could remember, Tarrant used an AR-15 and hunting rifle at the range.

Anyone with a standard firearm licence could own a AR-15, but there were limits over 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, Mr Williams said.

"I think we're feeling 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.''

Mr 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.''

Police outside an  address in Somerville St Dunedin. Photo: ODT
Police outside an address in Somerville St Dunedin. Photo: ODT
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed this morning the 28-year-old man accused of murder, 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."

Ms Ardern said he 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."

Ms Ardern said the fact that 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," she said. “We are all grieving together.”

It was earlier confirmed Tarrant was an Australian citizen.

Tarrant, whose address was given as Andersons Bay in Dunedin, made an appearance from custody at Christchurch District Court this morning charged with murder. He did not make a plea and was remanded to appear in the High Court on April 5.

The man said in a manifesto published on social media before the attack he originally planned to target Dunedin's Al Huda Mosque. 

Since yesterday, Dunedin police have been investigating a property in Somerville St that is a "location of interest" in connection to yesterday's attack.

It remained cordoned off earlier this morning, with a bomb squad arriving just before 10am. The cordon had since been relaxed.

A neighbour who had been living in the street for about two years said he had been there the whole time.  She said he kept to himself, but she saw him around the neighbourhood and going for runs.


Brenton Tarrant is believed to have travelled to Pakistan in the past year, and Bulgarian officials are investigating his 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 Cryllic 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, Bachovo, 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 Hungary."

Bulgarian intelligence said he was reported to have visited Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia in December 2016.

In Spring 2017, Tarrant is reported to have visited Europe, travelling to France, Spain and Portugal.

- With NZME

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