The gunman behind the horrific mosque attack that left 49 persons dead in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant, said he ‘wanted to take a stand’.
Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, reportedly worked as a personal trainer at Big River Gym in the northern New South Wales city of Grafton.
Tracey Gray, gym manager, told ABC News that Tarrant, who filmed the attack and streamed it online, worked at the gym after he graduated from school in 2009 until 2011, when he left to go travelling overseas in Asia and in Europe.
“He was a very dedicated personal trainer,” Gray said.
“He worked in our program that offered free training to kids in the community, and he was very passionate about that.”
The gym manager said she never saw Tarrant as someone who had an interest in firearms.
“I think something must have changed in him during the years he spent travelling overseas,” she said.
Tarrant was said to have lost his father Rodney to some kind of asbestos-related illness when he was rounding off high school.
He left his job after making some money from Bitconnect, a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, and then used the money to fund his travels. He is known to have travelled to Europe, South-East Asia and East Asia.
In a 74-page manifesto detailing his ultranationalist agenda, Tarrant described himself as a “regular white man, from a regular family” who was born in Australia to a “working class, low-income family”.
“My parents are of Scottish, Irish and English stock. I had a regular childhood, without any great issues. I had little interest in education during my schooling, barely achieving a passing grade,” he said.
“I am just a regular White man, from a regular family. Who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people. I only arrived New Zealand to live temporarily whilst I planned and trained, but I soon found out that New Zealand was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the west.”
The suspect wanted to send a message that “nowhere in the world is safe”, according to the document, and the choice of weapon – firearms – was designed to gain maximum publicity.
“I chose firearms for the effect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the effect it could have on the politics of United States and thereby the political situation of the world,” the document read.
The author of the manifesto went on to describe himself as “a private and mostly introverted person” and admits he is racist, adding that he is an “Eco-fascist by nature”.
On his planning for the attack, he wrote: “I begun planning an attack roughly two years in advance and an attack at the location in Christchurch three months in advance.”
Answering whether he supports Brexit, he wrote: “Yes, though not for an official policy made. The truth is that eventually people must face the fact that it wasn’t a damn thing to do with the economy.
“That it was the British people firing back at mass immigration, cultural displacement and globalism, and that’s a great and wonderful thing.”
He described himself as an ethnonationalist and a fascist, who was inspired by Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik.