This section of the report contains material that may be confronting, particularly to those affected by the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack.
Many of the questions raised by the community were focused on whether the individual was a lone actor. We have addressed this issue in the preceding chapter and for this reason our answers to these questions are brief. Other questions relate to the firearms licence and we deal with those in Part 5: The firearms licence. There are a number of other questions that we address below.
8.1 Background of the individual
Did the individual have a history of recreational firearms use?
There is no evidence that the individual had any significant history of recreational firearms use before applying for his licence. He had used firearms when in New Zealand in 2013 and probably in August 2017, and twice at tourist attractions overseas.
He had not owned firearms before arriving in New Zealand.
Was the individual military trained?
We have seen no evidence indicating the individual received military training. The claim in his manifesto that he is a United States Navy-trained SEAL is untrue.
8.2 Assistance, motivation and/or encouragement for the terrorist attack
Was the individual really a lone actor? Did he have direct support (that is more than one person was involved in the terrorist attack) or indirect support (that is from online communities)?
In the individual’s communications before 15 March 2019, was he motivated or recruited by anyone to perpetrate terrorist acts or did he motivate or recruit anyone to perpetrate terrorist acts?
Yes, he was a lone actor and no one else was involved in the planning, preparation or execution of the terrorist attack. There is no evidence that anyone else was aware of his plans or provided personalised encouragement. It is, however, likely that his thinking was affected by what was said in far right online communities and other far right material he was able to source from the internet.
The individual was not recruited by anyone living in either New Zealand or overseas to commit terrorist acts. However, in acquiring semi-automatic weapons, joining a rifle club and a gym, in taking anabolic steroids and testosterone and in committing acts of terrorism, the individual was following a course of action similar to that of the Oslo terrorist. A copy of the Oslo terrorist’s manifesto was found on the SD card of the individual’s drone. In this sense we think that he was motivated by him.
We hold no evidence that the individual, in any of his communications prior to 15 March 2019, sought to motivate or recruit any person living in New Zealand or overseas to commit terrorist acts. He did, however, post the comments discussed in chapter 4, which in a general sense promoted his terrorist ideology.
Was the individual part of a gang or group?
No, he was a lone actor.
8.3 Possible associations of the individual
What do you know about the individual’s social networks, his friends and acquaintances?
Did the individual associate with people residing in New Zealand who have expressed sympathy with white supremacist ideology or other forms of right-wing extremism?
This is discussed earlier in this Part. His mother and sister were living in Australia. They were aware of his far right and racist views and his ownership of firearms and worried about him. They were not aware of his planning and preparation for his terrorist attack. With the exception of his sister and his mother, his engagement with others was limited and superficial.
We are not aware of the individual associating with extreme right-wing people in New Zealand. He was active in online message boards and groups and it is possible other participants active in those forums also resided in New Zealand. Gaming friend was aware of the individual’s political views and that he was in the habit of expressing racist and Islamophobic opinions. While gaming friend did not dispute or challenge those views or opinions, gaming friend’s involvement in such discussions was usually passive. There were only three occasions (or periods of time) when the individual and gaming friend met face-to-face (in 2013, August 2017 and January 2018).
8.4 The individual’s activities in New Zealand
Why did the individual select Dunedin to live in?
The individual told friends and family that he chose to live in Dunedin because of its climate, Scottish heritage and low levels of immigration. He mentioned its architecture to us. He may have wished to ensure he did not need to have regular engagement with anyone he knew such as gaming friend and gaming friend’s parent, and his sister and mother. This would have reduced the likelihood of his way of life raising concerns that may have been reported.
Did the individual have to provide a reference to secure his rental property tenancy in Dunedin? If so, who was it?
No. The individual told the property manager that he owned rental property in Australia (which he did, jointly with his sister). The individual paid the first two months’ rent in advance, bond and letting fee when signing the rental tenancy lease.
He was not required to provide a friend or family member as a reference. We were told by the property manager this is not uncommon.
Did the individual live alone?
Yes, the individual lived alone.
People have heard that the individual drove approximately 3,800 kilometres since he purchased his car. Where could he have travelled in this time?
The individual purchased his vehicle on 21 August 2017. When the individual’s car was stopped by New Zealand Police on 15 March 2019, the total amount of kilometres on his car was 82,804 (compared with 72,500 kilometres when he purchased it). It appears the individual travelled around 10,304 kilometres while he owned the car. The travel we can account for amounts to 5,653 kilometres.
Between the 21 August 2017 and 15 March 2019, the individual travelled to the Bruce Rifle Club 27 times. This would have amounted to 2,894.4 kilometres.
Between 6–8 March 2018, the individual travelled from Dunedin to Akaroa and back. This would have amounted to 832 kilometres.
He also travelled to Te Anau and Invercargill with his mother and her partner. This would have amounted to 658 kilometres.
The individual travelled to Masjid an-Nur on 8 January 2019 to conduct reconnaissance. This would have amounted to 361 kilometres. When he travelled back to Dunedin he went via Mackenzie Country. This would have amounted to approximately 540 kilometres.
The individual travelled to Masjid an-Nur and Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. This would have amounted to 367.5 kilometres.
The travel set out above amounts to a total of 5,653 kilometres. The balance of the 10,304 kilometres (4,651 kilometres) is consistent with normal travel around Dunedin between 21 August 2017 and 15 March 2019. Making allowances for his overseas trips, we calculate this indicates daily vehicle usage of approximately nine kilometres.
Had the individual made any living arrangements for after his terrorist attack?
The individual had arranged to terminate the lease on his Dunedin flat on 1 April 2019 and sold most of his personal effects prior to 15 March 2019.
He had made no plans for living arrangements after the terrorist attack as he understood that if he survived the terrorist attack he would be imprisoned.
8.5 Possible planning by the individual
Did the individual visit Masjid an-Nur in person prior to the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019?
We have seen no evidence that the individual entered the property occupied by Masjid an-Nur prior to the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.
We know the individual undertook reconnaissance of Masjid an-Nur on 8 January 2019 by observing it from outside and flying a drone over the masjid. The individual told us that he stood in Hagley Park (opposite the masjid) when he was flying the drone. This is consistent with the flight path of the drone.
The evidence we have received indicates that this was the closest the individual came to Masjid an-Nur prior to the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.
The individual obtained, through other means, the internal layout of Masjid an-Nur. In particular, the individual acquired walk-through video footage of the Masjid an-Nur from a publicly available Facebook page that he saved to his phone on 11 March 2019.
We are satisfied that the individual remained in or around Dunedin from 9 January 2019 to the morning of 15 March 2019.
Did the individual visit the Linwood Islamic Centre in person prior to the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019?
We have seen no evidence that the individual entered the property occupied by the Linwood Islamic Centre prior to the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.
The individual told us that he drove past the Linwood Islamic Centre in the late afternoon of 8 January 2019 and that this was for the purpose of reconnaissance.
Did the individual visit masajid in New Zealand, including, Ashburton, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton or Wellington?
The individual undertook reconnaissance of masajid in Christchurch, Ashburton and Dunedin.
We have seen no evidence the individual visited masajid in Wellington or Hamilton and he also told us he did not visit these masajid.
The individual’s mobile phone records placed him near the Invercargill Masjid on 2 January 2019. However, he told us this was not a reconnaissance exercise. This is likely to be correct as, at that time, the individual was travelling with his mother and her partner.
How did the individual know the “perfect time” to enter the masjidain?
He was able to research prayer times online and knew Friday was an important prayer day and therefore the Christchurch masjidain would be well attended.
8.6 Firearms and weapons
Where did the individual purchase his firearms from?
The individual purchased three firearms in person from New Zealand-based firearms stores and purchased a further seven firearms not in person by completing the required New Zealand Police mail order form. It is conceivable that he bought and sold other firearms privately but we have seen no evidence of this.
How, and who, modified the individual’s firearms?
We believe the individual modified his own firearms. There is no evidence to suggest that anyone else assisted him with the modifications.
When we interviewed him, he said he used YouTube tutorials and instructions on the packaging of parts he had purchased to do the modifications.
How was the individual able to accumulate firearms and ammunition without drawing any attention?
As a standard firearms licence holder, the individual could legally purchase firearms and ammunition. There is no limit on the number of firearms that someone can buy or own with a standard licence. Likewise, there is no limit on the amount of ammunition someone can buy or own.
New Zealand Police held copies of the individual’s mail order purchase forms. These were collected to authorise the online purchase of firearms and ammunition, and not for the purpose of keeping records of firearms ownership or how much ammunition individuals were acquiring.
Did the individual use a fully automatic gun?
No. He used semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and a lever action rifle.
Was the ammunition the individual purchased only able to be used in a military style semi-automatic, for which an E Endorsement would have been required?
No. The ammunition purchased by the individual could be used with firearms able to be possessed by the holder of a standard firearms licence.
How could the individual afford to purchase his firearms and ammunition if he was unemployed?
How could the individual afford to travel if he was unemployed?
How did the individual fund the terrorist attack? Did he bring funds into the country?
The individual received approximately AU$457,000 from his father. This money (and income from investments made with it) meant that he did not have to work and was able to purchase his firearms and ammunition, fund his travel and prepare for the terrorist attack.
The individual held bank accounts in Australia and New Zealand, which he continued to use while living in New Zealand. He held an Australian bank account that contained the bulk of his investments. He transferred funds from his Australian bank accounts to his New Zealand ANZ bank account, which he used, partly, to purchase items in New Zealand.
The individual’s mother allegedly stated the individual got his firearms out of the car when she visited him, so he could show them to her. Why was he carrying the firearms in his car all the time?
The individual’s mother told police in Australia on 17 March 2019 that when she visited him in Dunedin at the end of 2018, the individual asked her to hold one of his firearms, which he had taken out of a bag in the lounge room of the 112 Somerville Street property. The individual’s mother stated she was uncomfortable with the idea of holding the firearm but agreed to do as asked. The individual photographed her with the firearm.
There is no evidence that the individual always carried firearms in his car, although he obviously had firearms in his car when he drove to rifle clubs.
The improvised explosive devices that were found in the individual’s vehicle – how were they acquired, how did he know how to make them, and what was their purpose?
Four basic incendiary devices (which were not improvised explosive devices) were found in the individual’s vehicle on 15 March 2019. The incendiary devices consisted of four, ten litre containers filled with petrol, with lighters and cans of accelerant (gun oil spray) duct-taped to the side. The materials the individual used to make the devices were able to be easily purchased. The individual told New Zealand Police he intended to use the incendiary devices to set fire to the masjidain, but he did not do so.
8.7 Other matters
How was the individual able to transfer money from his Australian bank accounts to his bank accounts in New Zealand without attracting attention?
Reporting entities (defined in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009), such as banks, are required to identify their customers who transfer money internationally in accordance with the requirements of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.
Providing a New Zealand bank identified the individual as the person making the international transfers, there would be no impediment to him transferring money internationally. In order for the individual’s international money transfers to attract attention, a New Zealand bank would need to have reasonable grounds to suspect that the transfers may be relevant to detecting an offence before they could report this information. The international money transfers would not, in and of themselves, reach the reporting threshold under the legislation.
We understand informal or hawala arrangements are used by some members of the community to transfer money internationally. Transfers of this kind over $1,000 have additional due diligence requirements on banks. These requirements did not apply to the individual’s money transfers.
Did the individual in any of his communications prior to 15 March 2019, signal his intention to perpetrate one or more terrorist acts?
The only intention signalled by the individual prior to 15 March 2019 to perpetrate terrorist acts was through writing his manifesto (which was not publicly available until 15 March 2019), and through his notes to himself that indicated his reconnaissance of masajid and other preparation for 15 March 2019.
These documents were not visible to anyone else and, in that sense, were not communicated prior to 15 March 2019.
Have New Zealand Police reviewed the footage from CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the masjidain that were attacked on 15 March 2019?
Yes, New Zealand Police have reviewed the CCTV footage that was available in the vicinity of the masjidain that were attacked on 15 March 2019.
Have New Zealand Police identified the woman that visited the Masjid an-Nur on 14 March 2019? Have they identified what, if any, role she had in the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack?
Yes, New Zealand Police have interviewed the woman who was identified as being at the Masjid an-Nur on 14 March 2019. They are satisfied that the woman concerned had a reasonable explanation for entering Masjid an-Nur, and there was nothing suspicious in her explanation. They are satisfied that she had nothing to do with the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.
Did the individual know Philip Arps?
There is no evidence the individual knows Philip Arps or that there was any other connection between them.
Is there is any connection between the individual and Troy Dubovskiy, who took his life during a New Zealand Police pursuit on 27 March 2019?
There is no evidence the individual knew Troy Dubovskiy or that there was any other connection between them.