Christchurch massacre suspect travelled the world but lived on the Internet

Brenton Tarrant (centre) is lead into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, on March 16, 2019.
Brenton Tarrant (centre) is lead into the dock for his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, on March 16, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

CHRISTCHURCH (NYTIMES) - He announced his mass killing over social media and filmed it live on the Internet.

He shared a 74-page online manifesto peppered with sarcastic jokes about popular culture, repeating well-known Internet memes and striving to mint new ones.

He even laid out his explanation in a "Q and A" format, as though in an interview, with asides to imagine the reactions.

"I am sure the journalists will love that," he wrote, after answering, "yes," to his own question, "Were/are you a fascist?"

The man accused of killing 49 people on Friday (March 15) in a shooting spree at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, identified in court papers on Saturday as Brenton H. Tarrant, is a 28-year-old body builder and personal trainer from the small town of Grafton, Australia.

He is the son of a local garbage man.

But after the death of his father, in 2010, the suspect's life took him in an unexpected direction.

 
 
 

He invested in cryptocurrency, quit his gym job and took an idiosyncratic tour through North Korea, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, France and elsewhere.

And his travels - apparently solo - plunged him deeply into the online world of white-nationalist message boards.

Tarrant now appears to have become the first accused mass murderer to conceive of the killing itself as a meme; it seems he was both inspired by the world of social media and performing for it, hoping his video, images and text would go viral.

The suspect's parents were divorced early in his childhood, according to his father's obituary in The Daily Examiner, of Grafton.

Tarrant's mother was not mentioned in the obituary, suggesting she may have been estranged from the father.

"Just an ordinary white man" from "a working class, low income family", Tarrant wrote in his manifesto. "I had a regular childhood, without any great issues. I had little interest in education during my schooling, barely achieving a passing grade. I did not attend University as I had no great interest in anything offered in the Universities to study."

He wrote in his manifesto that his profits from investing in the cryptocurrency Bitconnect enabled him to travel.

References throughout his manifesto indicate that he was deeply immersed in white nationalist Internet forums. He also appears to have developed a detailed interest in American politics.

"Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?" Tarrant asked himself in the manifesto.

"As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policymaker and leader? Dear God, no."

He hoped "to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms in order to further the social, cultural, political and racial divide," thus "ensuring the death of the 'melting pot' pipe dream."