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Christchurch shooting

Inquiry into New Zealand’s deadliest shooting opens with memorial to victims

Inquiry into New Zealand’s deadliest shooting opens with memorial to victims
Flowers and candles are seen during a vigil to remember the victims of last week's terrorist attack on Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 21 March 2019. A gunman killed 50 worshippers at the Al Noor Masjid and Linwood Masjid in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March. A 28-year-old Australian suspect was charged with murder. EPA-EFE/KELLY BARNES AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

WELLINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - A coroner’s inquiry into New Zealand's worst mass shooting opened on Tuesday with a traditional Maori welcome and a reading from the Koran in remembrance of the 51 Muslim worshippers killed by an Australian white supremacist.

Armed with high-capacity semi-automatic weapons, Brenton Tarrant, 32, killed 51 people and injured dozens when he opened fire in two mosques on March 15, 2019, in Christchurch.

Tarrant released a racist manifesto shortly before the attack and streamed the shootings live on Facebook. He was convicted on 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act and is serving a life sentence in prison without parole.

“I ask simply that we keep each of the 51 people whose lives have been lost, and that common goal at the centre of this hearing,” Deputy Chief Coroner Brigitte Windley said as she opened the inquiry.

Windley said the inquiry would “seek to shine a light” on what happened and would consider making recommendations to reduce the chances of a similar event happening again.

“This inquiry is not about establishing liability or negligence,” she said. “I have no mandate to award compensation or to direct further proceedings.”

Over the next six weeks the inquiry will examine 10 issues including the response by emergency services and hospital staff, whether Tarrant had direct assistance from any other person and the cause of death for each of the deceased.

Windley is not expected to release her findings until some time in 2024.

The inquiry is a legal process required by New Zealand law to examine unexpected deaths and receives input from medical examiners, police, first responders and other witnesses to the death.

The main courtroom was full and further space had been made available in a neighbouring courtroom for families to watch a livestream.

Before the first witness appeared, a video was played with photos and memories of all those who died. The start of the inquiry was then dedicated to the events on the day and how emergency services responded.

By Lucy Craymer

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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