Terry Fitzgerald, the uncle of Brenton Tarrant, has apologised to the families of the victims in the terrorist attacks allegedly committed by his nephew.
“We are so sorry for the families over there, for the dead and the injured. What he has done is just not right,” Mr Fitzgerald said on behalf of his family to Nine News on Sunday.
The apology came as Tarrant’s grandmother Marie Fitzgerald revealed Tarrant’s mother and sister had been taken to a safe place for their protection.
“The police will do their duty and keep them protected which is what they need and no phone contact, they have said you can’t contact them,” the 81-year-old woman said.
Mrs Fitzgerald said the family was “gobsmacked” to have learned Tarrant had been charged with murdering Muslims at mosques in Christchurch.
“It’s just so much of everything to take in that somebody in our family would do anything like this,” she said in the NSW town of Grafton.
“The media is saying he has planned it for a long time so he is obviously not of sound mind.”
Tarrant reportedly went to Europe after his father died of cancer in 2010 and came back a different man, Mrs Fitzgerald said.
“It’s only since he travelled overseas I think that, that boy has changed completely to the boy we knew,” Mrs Fitzgerald said.
Mrs Fitzgerald said Tarrant returned to Grafton 12 months ago for his sister’s birthday and there were no red flags.
“He was just his normal self, you know, we all chatted and had a meal together to celebrate that occasion and now everyone is just devastated,” she said.
Tarrant will be prosecuted in New Zealand over the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 50 people.
Police allege Tarrant travelled between the Al Noor Mosque beside Hagley Park in central Christchurch and Linwood Mosque some 5km away within seven minutes.
After just 36 minutes dozens were dead and injured.
Tarrant was caught on Brougham St, dragged from a car by two police officers, and taken into custody.
A total of 50 people are confirmed dead. Health officials say 39 people remain in hospital, with 11 critical in intensive care. The youngest victim is 2.
Tarrant had allegedly been living in Dunedin for two years, spending much of his time travelling overseas. He was not on any watch lists in New Zealand or Australia.
Police said five guns were used in the attacks, with two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns, and a lever action firearm recovered from the scenes. PM Jacinda Ardern said Tarrant acquired a gun licence in November 2017.