Brenton Tarrant, the anti-Muslim terrorist who killed 51 people during two attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, abused steroids and donated money to far-right websites and YouTube personalities like Stefan Molyneux, according to a new report released by the New Zealand government. The 810-page report also says Tarrant claimed YouTube was a “significant source of information and inspiration” for his attack--troubling confirmation that the internet has helped radicalize several generations of far-right terrorists over the past decade.
Tarrant, originally from Australia, was 28 years old when he carried out his terrorist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, livestreaming his attack on the first mosque on Facebook for 17 minutes before the stream was cut. The new report from the New Zealand government was an effort to figure out what went wrong and whether more could have been done to stop the vicious attacks which included a 3-year-old boy among the dead.
The report details, among other things, everything from Tarrant’s abuse of steroids and injection of testosterone to his extensive travels around the world during the 2010s. Tarrant was independently wealthy after his father’s suicide left him with over $537,000 AU (about $400,000 US) and received some income from his share in a family rental property in Australia. The report notes that Tarrant was starting to run out of money shortly before the attack, but gave “no indication” that he “gave serious thought to working for a living.”
“As will become apparent from the individual’s planning documents, his dwindling financial reserves influenced the timing of his terrorist attack,” the report reads.
The report details some of Tarrant’s financial contributions to like-minded extremists, ranging from relatively “mainstream” personalities on the far-right like Stefan Molyneux and Richard Spencer to more fringe (yet still incredibly popular) neo-Nazi websites like the Daily Stormer.
In January of 2017, Tarrant donated to Freedomain Radio, run by Canadian racist Stefan Molyneux, and the National Policy Institute, the white supremacist think tank run by Richard B. Spencer. Spencer is perhaps most famous for getting punched in the face, but he’s still operating as a far right agitator now based in Montana. Tarrant made payments to both Molyneux and Spencer’s organizations through PayPal. Molyneaux and Spencer did not immediately respond to email inquiries sent overnight.
Other donations listed in the report in Australian dollars:
- Generation Identity - $187.18 (09/15/2017)
- TRS Radio - $131.02 (09/15/2017)
- Rebel News Network - $106.68 (09/15/2017)
- SmashCM - $177.43 (09/15/2017)
- IMT FR7610278073010002130350147 GENERATIREFC259706626154 EUR (unclear who received this money) - $1,591.09 (09/16/2017)
- Generation Identity - $187.18 (09/19/2017)
- IMT FR13907000006276168621321 GENERATIREFC263707054998EUR (unclear who received this money) - $1,591.09 (09/20/2017)
- Back the Right - $25.97 (12/22/2017)
- Martin Sellner MITU - $2,308.97 (01/05/2018)
- Daily Stormer - Bitcoin 0.100 (01/14/2018)
- Daily Stormer - Bitcoin 0.00865585 (02/12/2018)
- Daily Stormer - Bitcoin 0.03 (02/12/2018)
- Identity Movement Germany - Bitcoin 0.00121292 (04/20/2018)
- Identity Movement Germany - Bitcoin 0.00529139 (04/20/2018)
The report explains that Tarrant exchanged email messages with far-right figure Martin Sellner, an Austrian national and neo-Nazi extremist, after that particular donation. The last two donations to Identity Movement Germany are perhaps notable because April 20 is Adolf Hitler’s birthday and white supremacists commonly celebrate it.
Tarrant also told investigators that he made other donations not listed in the report, including a $50 donation to Australia’s United Patriots Front, led by Blair Cottrell, but it’s not clear how many others and to whom. Tarrant made an effort to maintain good operational security and destroyed plenty of evidence, including a computer hard drive, before he carried out his attacks.
Tarrant had very few friends on Facebook but commented frequently in far-right groups, both public and private. In one comment highlighted by the report, Tarrant was overjoyed when President Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, writing “globalists and Marxists on suicide watch, patriots and nationalists triumphant.”
There are plenty of other new details in this report about Tarrant’s behavior in the years leading up to the attack. Tarrant frequented the gym and sometimes introduced himself as “Barry.” There’s also evidence from his medical providers that he was abusing steroids, and injecting testosterone two-to three times a week.
Tarrant used the username Kiwi14words on the New Zealand-based classified platform Trade Me. The term “fourteen words” refers to a white supremacist slogan. While Tarrant specifically identifies as a racist in his manifesto, he reportedly told investigators that he’s not racist as long as “ethnic people” somehow “remained in their places of birth.”
Several of the guns and almost all of the ammunition was purchased online, and Tarrant also used technology to his advantage in order to surveil the communities he wished to attack. The report notes that Tarrant downloaded a Facebook video from the inside of Masjid an-Nur mosque, the first of the two mosques he attacked. The original poster of the video was a Muslim tourist simply documenting the mosque for their travels. Tarrant also used a drone to monitor the sites he would attack, a detail that had first emerged in news reports back in August.
Arguably the most chilling piece of new evidence presented in the report is the “to-do” list created on July 18, 2018, a full eight months before the attack. The list was recovered from an SD card. The list included lines like “more shooting” and “do research on other mosques, entry/exits/blocks etc.” The reference to “more shooting” likely referred to his training at a local gun club in New Zealand.
It’s also notable that Tarrant’s list included a reminder to clean his hard drives of videos and pictures to ensure there is “good optics.” Far right extremists often refer to “optics” when spreading their message of hate—an effort to appear reasonable and acceptable to mainstream society.
According to the report, Tarrant also posted photos of the guns he used in the attack long before he actually carried out his plans. Tarrant uploaded at least one photo of a gun to Twitter and created a Facebook album with 155 images called “open in case of Saracens” on March 13, 2019, just two days before the attack. One of the images included the Masjid an-Nur mosque digitally altered to make it look like it was in flames.
Tarrant uploaded his manifesto to file-sharing site Zippyshare shortly after midnight on March 15 and then tweeted a link to his manifesto at 6:26 a.m. Tarrant reportedly had no Twitter followers and very few Facebook friends but the manifesto and his livestream of the attack were easily discovered after he posted links to 8Chan.
Tarrant is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. New Zealand does not have the death penalty. The full report is available to read at the government of New Zealand’s website.