We were told that, before 15 March 2019, Muslim individuals and communities had reported concerns to New Zealand Police about suspicious activity at masajid around New Zealand.
After 15 March 2019, several people remembered suspicious activity at masajid that had happened before the terrorist attack but was not reported to New Zealand Police at the time. In this chapter we discuss only reports made before 15 March 2019, because it is only such reports that could have alerted New Zealand Police to the terrorist attack.
2.2 Inquiries into reports of suspicious activity made before 15 March 2019
New Zealand Police provided us with all information dating back to 2010 that they held on complaints they recorded about suspicious activity at masajid. We reviewed this information and found two complaints made to New Zealand Police that may be relevant:
- On 20 February 2019, New Zealand Police received a complaint about a person who had made a threat on Facebook to burn a Qur’an at a masjid in Hamilton on 15 March 2019. New Zealand Police received other complaints about the person who made this threat. New Zealand Police dealt with these complaints by visiting the person who made the threat and giving them verbal and written warnings. This person was not the individual. We are satisfied that there is no connection between this person and the individual. The fact that the date associated with the person’s threat is the same as the day of the individual’s terrorist attack is a coincidence.
- On 26 February 2019, New Zealand Police received a complaint about a person at the Wellington Islamic Centre and Masjid. New Zealand Police were not able to identify the person. We reviewed evidence to determine whether this person could have been the individual. For the individual to have travelled from his home in Dunedin (in the South Island) to Wellington (in the North Island), he would have needed to take a plane or a ferry for at least part of the journey. Airlines and ferry companies had no record of the individual travelling between the South Island and the North Island in 2019. Based on all the evidence we have about the individual between 1 January 2019 and the day of the terrorist attack (see Part 4: The terrorist), we are satisfied that the individual was in the South Island in February 2019. We therefore conclude that the person seen at the Wellington Islamic Centre and Masjid in late February 2019 was not the individual. This is consistent with what the individual told us.
2.3 Possibility of unrecorded complaints
It is possible that some reports made by Muslim individuals and communities to New Zealand Police of suspicious activity were not recorded. During our inquiry we heard a range of general concerns from Muslim communities about their experiences of reporting to New Zealand Police (see Part 8, chapter 6). These included instances where people did not see officers writing anything down when being told about suspicious or threatening behaviour.
We know that the individual was in the vicinity of the Invercargill Masjid on 2 January 2019 when travelling with his mother and her partner (see Part 4, chapter 8). We also know he observed the Ashburton Masjid, Masjid an-Nur and the Linwood Islamic Centre on 8 January 2019 and Masjid Al-Huda, Dunedin Islamic Centre in Dunedin on 11 January 2019 (see Part 4, chapter 6). The events of 8 January 2019 and 11 January 2019 were hostile reconnaissance. The same may be the case with the 2 January 2019 incident but we think it more probable that it was not because the individual was with his mother and her partner at the time. We are confident that he remained in and around Dunedin from 9 January 2019 until the morning of 15 March 2019. We have seen no evidence to suggest the individual carried out hostile reconnaissance of any other masajid in New Zealand. Given the range of material available to us (including his mobile phone data and records of financial transactions), we would have expected to have seen evidence if such reconnaissance had occurred.
New Zealand Police did not receive any reports about the individual’s reconnaissance of the masajid in Christchurch, Ashburton and Dunedin.
2.4 Concluding comments
Before 15 March 2019, New Zealand Police did not hold any information about suspicious activity or reconnaissance exercises at masajid that related to the individual.