Christchurch terrorist visited Ireland in 2017 as inquiry reveals role of Internet in his radicalisation

A photo of a flower memorial in Christchurch after the terrorist attack by a far-right extremist left 51 people dead.

The Christchurch terrorist visited Ireland in the years before he carried out his attack on two mosques last year. His visit was revealed in a report published by a Royal Commission of Inquiry which investigated the attack. It revealed details of the terrorist’s personal history and what radicalised him.

According to the report the Internet played a substantial role in fostering the shooter’s extremist views. The commission singled out YouTube as being particularly responsible for his radicalisation.

Travel and the Internet 

New Zealand authorities published the report on 8 December. The inquiry noted a number of aspects of the terrorist’s personal life which allowed him to plan his attack.

It revealed that the terrorist traveled extensively in the years leading up to his murder of 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch last March. He visited numerous European countries. And this included spending time in Ireland for a period of seven days between 1 May and 8 May in 2017.

Although the report states that there are extremist groups in some of the countries he visited, “there is no evidence that he met with them”.

A more significant influence on his views were far-right groups and pages available on the Internet. The terrorist began using 4chan at 14 and posted on the right-wing discussions boards there and on 8chan.

But the authorities disclosed that the Christchurch terrorist told them that YouTube was “a far more significant source of information and inspiration”. And that the evidence investigators saw is “consistent with what he told us”. 

He also made donations to Freedomain Radio, a group founded by far-right conspiracy theorist Stefan Molyneux, which has its own YouTube channel. Another organisation he donated to was Rebel News, a far-right news group. 

One of its more notable contributors was far-right YouTuber Lauren Southern. She visited Ireland in 2018 to film towns and villages where it was proposed to locate direct provision centres. Southern met with known Irish far-right activists such as Rowan Croft, aka Grand Torino. 

The Christchurch murderer also made a number of donations to Generation Identity, Martin Sellner, the Daily Stormer, and the German Identity Movement

A lone actor 

One reason why the Christchurch terrorist was able to go unnoticed while planning the attack was because he was self-funded. In the report it’s noted that his father left him $457,000 after his death from cancer. The funds came from a settlement the terrorist’s father received from a claim for damages in relation to exposure to asbestos. 

As a result of this, the Christchurch terrorist had no job, lived alone, and travelled extensively. He subsisted entirely off his inheritance for roughly nine years. The report points out that this set of circumstances meant

there was limited opportunity for the hard edges of his political thinking to be softened by regular and lasting connections with people with different views. In fact, his limited personal engagement with others left considerable scope for influence from extreme right-wing material, which he found on the internet and in books.  

He’d also engaged in racist behaviour from a young age. One of his high school teachers, who was the school’s Anti-Racism Contact Officer, dealt with the terrorist in relation to his antisemitism. 

It also appears that he’d been planning the Christchurch attack for over two years, starting in 2017. His preparations included purchasing thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple firearms. 

In one episode singled out in the report the terrorist accidentally shot himself in July 2018 and went to a hospital for treatment. But the registrar who treated him didn’t report the incident to the police. 

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has apologised for the failure of authorities to prevent the attack. The inquiry declared that intelligence agencies had “failed to anticipate or plan for the terrorist attack” due to a lack of attention being paid to far-right extremism.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Paul Cull


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