‘Shattered’ Christchurch shooter’s grandmother reveals how he went from ‘computer nerd’ to terrorist

The grandmother of the white supremacist allegedly responsible for the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers has apologised for her grandson’s actions. 

Marie Fitzgerald, 81, joined Brenton Tarrant’s grandfather Joyce in voicing her incredulity that her grandson was potentially capable of murder.

Speaking for the first time on Sunday from her living room in New South Wales, Mrs Fitzgerald said she was ‘gobsmacked’ when she learnt of the Christchurch attacks.

Brenton Tarrant was arrested after allegedly gunning down dozens of worshippers on Friday

Brenton Tarrant was arrested after allegedly gunning down dozens of worshippers on Friday

Brenton Tarrant was arrested after allegedly gunning down dozens of worshippers on Friday

‘It’s just so much for everyone to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this,’ she told Nine News

Mrs Fitzgerald described an adolescent Tarrant as a computer enthusiast who didn’t pay much attention to girls growing up.

She said he would focus on the ‘ins and outs’ of a computer because talking to girls was ‘too hard’. 

Regardless, she said he was a ‘normal, happy child’ growing up in Grafton. 

She said his father’s death at the hands of cancer in 2010 ‘took its toll’ and prompted seven years of travelling through Europe and Asia.

‘The media are saying he’s planned it for a long time so he’s not of sound mind.

‘It’s only since he travelled overseas, I think, that that boy has changed.’  

Foreign border authorities in Turkey and Bulgaria have confirmed they’re investigating Tarrant’s travel history, trying to determine whether he had an ulterior motive for visiting.  

Grandmother of Brenton, Marie Fitzgerald (pictured) says her grandson was a computer enthusiast uninterested in girls growing up

Grandmother of Brenton, Marie Fitzgerald (pictured) says her grandson was a computer enthusiast uninterested in girls growing up

Grandmother of Brenton, Marie Fitzgerald (pictured) says her grandson was a computer enthusiast uninterested in girls growing up

Mrs Fitzgerald sat alongside Tarrant’s uncle, who apologised to the families of the victims.

‘We are so sorry for the families over there, for the dead and the injured. We just want to go home and hide.’ 

Tarrant’s grandmother from the other side of his family, Joyce, told Daily Mail Australia he was a ‘good boy’ who most recently visited over Christmas. 

The news of the attacks devastated the Grafton community, particularly Brenton’s mother Sharon.

She was in class teaching a double-period of English when her son allegedly went on his shooting rampage. 

After receiving calls from journalists on Friday afternoon, the Maclean High School teacher had to be pulled out of class and told of her son’s alleged act.

It is believed Tarrant’s sister Lauren has gone into police protection alongside Sharon after being interviewed by counter-terrorism police on Friday.

Daily Mail Australia witnessed Sharon’s pet dog left on the family’s front porch near a pair of empty food bowls.

The alleged shooter’s family approached police as soon as they recognised his face on TV coverage of the attacks, NSW officers said on Saturday.

Joyce said Tarrant visited his family in Grafton, in northern NSW, twice a year.  

Joyce Tarrant, 94, said the alleged cold-blooded killer who filmed himself gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew

Joyce Tarrant, 94, said the alleged cold-blooded killer who filmed himself gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew

Joyce Tarrant, 94, said the alleged cold-blooded killer who filmed himself gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew 

Joyce said the whole family was struggling with the news.

‘We’re just doing the best we can,’ she said at the door of her weatherboard house under the huge bridge that links Grafton’s north and south.

Joyce said her grandson showed no signs of extremist ideology when she last spoke with him.

Elsewhere in the riverbank town of about 22,000 people, locals were uneasy being at the centre of international attention.

Grafton is famous for its picturesque jacaranda trees, but now also for the evil that grew up there.

‘This has put Grafton on the map, but not in a good way. We had enough to worry about,’ one local said.

Flanked by two much taller armed security officers, Tarrant smiled faintly as he stood behind a small glass barrier which came up just above his eyes.

Flanked by two much taller armed security officers, Tarrant smiled faintly as he stood behind a small glass barrier which came up just above his eyes.

Flanked by two much taller armed security officers, Tarrant smiled faintly as he stood behind a small glass barrier which came up just above his eyes.

Tarrant grew up in a picture-perfect house (shown above) in Grafton in the Northern River region of Australia's New South Wales

Tarrant grew up in a picture-perfect house (shown above) in Grafton in the Northern River region of Australia's New South Wales

Tarrant grew up in a picture-perfect house (shown above) in Grafton in the Northern River region of Australia’s New South Wales

‘Tears, shock horror and shame that such evil is associated with not only our country but our home town, another said.

‘I feel so terrible for the people and families affected by this evil act of terrorism.’

Tarrant attended a local high school and then worked as a personal trainer at the local Big River Squash and Fitness Centre from 2010.

But following his father Rodney’s death after a battle with cancer, he allegedly began to turn towards extremism.

A woman who knew Tarrant through the gym said before his father’s death he had never spoken about religion or his beliefs.

‘From the conversations we had about life he didn’t strike me as someone who had any interest in that or extremist views,’ she said.

Tarrant previously worked as a personal trainer at Big River Squash and Fitness Centre in his hometown of Grafton.

Tarrant previously worked as a personal trainer at Big River Squash and Fitness Centre in his hometown of Grafton.

Tarrant previously worked as a personal trainer at Big River Squash and Fitness Centre in his hometown of Grafton. 

‘But I know he’s been travelling since he left Grafton. He has been travelling overseas, anywhere and everywhere.

‘I would say it’s something in the nature of his travels, something he’s been around.

‘I know he’s been to lots of different countries trying to experience lots of different things in life and I would say something’s happened in that time in his travels.’

Prosecutors in Bulgaria have launched a probe into Tarrant’s recent visit to the country.

He visited Bulgaria from November 9-15 last year claiming he wanted ‘to visit historical sites and study the history of the Balkan country’, according to Bulgaria’s public prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.

Tsatsarov said he hoped the inquiry would establish if this was ‘correct or if he had other objectives’. 

Turkish border authorities are also examining two trips by Tarrant to the country in 2016, CCTV footage capturing him walking through the airport in March, 2016.

A senior Turkish official says Tarrant spent an ‘extended period of time in the country’ across multiple trips. 

He says the suspect may have also traveled on to countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The official says an investigation is underway of ‘the suspect’s movements and contacts within the country’.  

Timeline of terror: How the Christchurch shootings unfolded

Friday March 15, 1.30pm local time (12.30am GMT): Gunman identifying himself as Brenton Tarrant live-streams mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque as Friday prayers are underway. The Bangladesh cricket team were on their way to the mosque at the time.

1.42pm: Police respond to reports of shots fired in central Christchurch. People are urged to stay indoors and report any suspicious behaviour. Shortly afterwards, all schools in the city are placed into lockdown.

1.49pm: Gunman believed to have travelled to Linwood Masjid Mosque, where he shot dead seven people.  

2.10pm: Police confirm they are attending an ‘evolving situation’ involving an ‘active shooter’

2.18pm: Hero cops detain gunman in dramatic roadside arrest, captured on camera by passing motorist.  

3.30pm: Two explosive devices attached to a car are found and disarmed by a bomb squad at Strickland Street, not far from the Al Noor Mosque.

4pm: One person confirmed to be in custody. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says there have been ‘multiple fatalities’ at two locations – both mosques. Mosques across New Zealand urged to shut their doors.

4.10pm: Prime minister Jacinda Ardern calls it ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.

5.30pm: Mr Bush says three men and one woman are in custody. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison confirms one of those arrested is Australian.

7.30pm: Ms Ardern says 40 are dead and more than 20 are seriously injured but confirms the offender is in custody 

National security threat level is lifted from low to high.

7.45pm: Britomart train station in central Auckland is evacuated after bags are found unattended. The bags were deemed not suspicious.

9pm: Death toll rises to 49 and Police Commissioner Bush reveals a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder. 

Police are not looking for any named or identified suspects, he says, but adds that it would be ‘wrong to assume that there is no-one else’.

11.50pm: Investigation extends 240 miles to the south where homes are evacuated around a ‘location of interest’ in Dunedin.

Tarrant's grandmother said the white supremacist who filmed himself calmly gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew. (Pictured is a still from a live-stream of the shooting)

Tarrant's grandmother said the white supremacist who filmed himself calmly gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew. (Pictured is a still from a live-stream of the shooting)

Tarrant’s grandmother said the white supremacist who filmed himself calmly gunning down Muslims during Friday prayers was not the grandson she knew. (Pictured is a still from a live-stream of the shooting)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Friday one of New Zealand's 'darkest days'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Friday one of New Zealand's 'darkest days'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Friday one of New Zealand’s ‘darkest days’

‘He was very dedicated to his own training and to training others,’ she said. ‘He threw himself into his own personal training and then qualified as a trainer and trained others. He was very good.’

‘When I say he was dedicated, he was dedicated more than most people would be.

‘He was in the gym for long periods of time, lifting heaving weights. He pretty much transformed his body.’

Tarrant faced Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning where he was charged with one count of murder.

Flanked by two much taller armed security officers, Tarrant smiled faintly as he stood behind a small glass barrier which came up just above his eyes.

From behind a glass window he made a white power gesture to those inside the court room. 

Police allege that after opening fire inside the Al Noor Mosque Tarrant drove to the Linwood Masjid Mosque across town and continued his rampage.

Accused Christchurch massacre gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant (pictured) made a white power gesture from behind a glass window, during a brief appearance in court

Accused Christchurch massacre gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant (pictured) made a white power gesture from behind a glass window, during a brief appearance in court

Accused Christchurch massacre gunman Brenton Harrison Tarrant (pictured) made a white power gesture from behind a glass window, during a brief appearance in court

Police allege that Tarrant began his shooting rampage at the Al Noor Masjid Mosque in the city's east, before driving across town to the Linwood Masjid Mosque and again opening fire

Police allege that Tarrant began his shooting rampage at the Al Noor Masjid Mosque in the city's east, before driving across town to the Linwood Masjid Mosque and again opening fire

Police allege that Tarrant began his shooting rampage at the Al Noor Masjid Mosque in the city’s east, before driving across town to the Linwood Masjid Mosque and again opening fire

Hundreds have taken to the streets near the mosques to march and pay tribute to the victims

Hundreds have taken to the streets near the mosques to march and pay tribute to the victims

Hundreds have taken to the streets near the mosques to march and pay tribute to the victims

Short of stature with a stocky build, with thinning hair and beady brown eyes, Tarrant stood squarely in place throughout the entire hearing.

He swivelled his torso around to repeatedly glance at the media, at District Court Judge Paul Kaller and out the windows of the Christchurch District Court.

At the beginning of the hearing he appeared to have a faint smile on his face, but it faded into a neutral expression as the hearing continued.

He has been charged with one count of murder but police say many more charges are expected to be laid when he appears in the High Court on April 5.

The hearing was over within minutes, with Tarrant taking one final look at those gathered and marched away.  

Candlelit vigils took place across the world, with hundreds paying respect in Christchurch

Candlelit vigils took place across the world, with hundreds paying respect in Christchurch

Candlelit vigils took place across the world, with hundreds paying respect in Christchurch

Among mourners were members of the New Zealand Police who responded to Friday's attacks

Among mourners were members of the New Zealand Police who responded to Friday's attacks

Among mourners were members of the New Zealand Police who responded to Friday’s attacks

The names of victims of the twin shootings were written on hearts and strung through the streets of Christchurch

The names of victims of the twin shootings were written on hearts and strung through the streets of Christchurch

The names of victims of the twin shootings were written on hearts and strung through the streets of Christchurch

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