New Zealand mosque shooter arrives in Christchurch for sentencing

FILE PHOTO: Brenton Tarrant, charged for murder in relation to the mosque attacks, is seen in the dock during his appearance in the Christchurch District Court, New Zealand March 16, 2019. Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald/Pool via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The suspected white supremacist who killed 51 Muslim worshippers last year, a massacre that prompted a global campaign to stamp out online hate, arrived in Christchurch on Sunday ahead of sentencing hearings.

Brenton Tarrant disembarked a New Zealand air force plane at Christchurch Airport on Sunday afternoon, wearing a protective vest and helmet and escorted by armed officers, before being directed into the back of a white van, television footage showed.

He has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and one charge of committing a terrorist act.

Tarrant was transported to Christchurch, the city where the shootings occurred, from Auckland Prison at Paremoremo, the New Zealand Herald reported.

A court in Christchurch will begin multi-day sentencing hearings on Monday, where survivors of the attack and family members of those killed will deliver victim impact statements.

Tarrant, an Australian, will be sentenced after being allowed to make a statement.

Murder convictions carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The judge can impose a life term without the possibility of release, a sentence that has never been used in New Zealand.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment on Tarrant’s movements, referring Reuters to the country’s Department of Corrections. A spokeswoman there declined to comment, citing “the interests of public safety and operational security”.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Jonathan Barrett and William Mallard