Christchurch terror attack death toll rises to 50, dozens remain injured

2019-03-17 04:40:02

The death toll from Friday's Christchurch terror attacks at two city mosques has risen to 50.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush on Sunday morning said one more person had died of their injuries following the massacre. The victim's body was found while others were being removed from the Deans Ave crime scene. Eleven people remained in critical condition in Christchurch Hospital. In all, 36 people are still in hospital.

A four-year-old child transported to Starship Hospital also remains in a critical condition.

Bush also gave an update on the two armed people arrested at a cordon near one of the crime scenes. "We do not believe that they were involved in these attacks".

One, a man, has been charged with firearms offences. The other, a woman, was released without charge.

"At this moment, only one person has been charged in relation to these attacks."

Another person had been arrested due to evidence uncovered during the investigation of the shootings, but they are not believed to be connected to the shooting.

Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, appeared in Christchurch District Court on Saturday on one murder charge. More charges are likely, police said. Tarrant is in custody and will reappear in court in April. Bush said it was clear the offender used a modified category A firearm. In regards to the police attending the terror attack scene on Friday and making the arrest of the accused, Bush believed police officers' work "did prevent further attacks".

"Those two police officers acted with absolute courage, I'm so proud of what they've done. They've prevented further deaths and again risked their own lives to do so." Police are working with coroners and pathologists to determine the cause of deaths as quickly as possible.

"We have to be absolutely clear on cause of death."

As mosques around the country reopened Bush said security will continue "until we believe there is no threat".

Bush stated the prosecution "will work towards the Crimes Act charges as a priority".

The offender still only faces one murder charge, but that will change given the number of victims. Support is being given to families affected by the attack.

"We have a very large contingent of ethnic liaison officers working with religious leaders and other religious support people to give every assistance to those people," Mike Bush said.

Police are continuing scene examinations of the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Ave and the Masjid Mosque on Linwood Avenue .   Bush said identifying victims was detailed and complex work. The victims have been removed from both mosques, he said.

He said notifying next of kin was a priority before names could officially be released.

Police have also finished their search of a home on Somerville St, Dunedin, the home of the accused.    "A number of items of interest were located", Bush said.   A police scene guard will remain at the property.

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