Neighbours and associates of the accused mosque massacre killer have described him as both “easygoing and friendly” and a “buffed up” weirdo “ready to explode”.
News.com.au can reveal that just nine days before Brenton Tarrant allegedly carried out the Christchurch shootings, he had given up his rental house in Dunedin.
A woman who asked not to be named confirmed her boyfriend had turned up to view the 1940s wooden two bedroom property, rented for $280 a week.
But he had turned away at the queue of 30 people outside Brenton Harrison Tarrant’s neat home in the Dunedin suburb of Andersons Bay.
Several neighbours of Tarrant’s, who said he gave “a friendly wave” as they passed in the street, said he had noticeably bulked up in recent months.
“He’s a stocky little guy, but you could see he had got leaner,” one male neighbour told news.com.au.
“He’s been going to the gym a lot.”
A Dunedin hotel manager, who knew Tarrant by sight, said he had seen the Australian-born man’s muscles increase in size over the first two months of this year.
Justin also said he felt a “certain vibe” emanating from the 28-year-old.
“I was wary of him,” he said.
“I followed behind him a couple of times in the supermarket aisle and I felt something was not quite as it should be.
“He didn’t do anything but I worried. I’m trained to look out for that sort of stuff and to me, he was ‘off’.”
On March 6, following a real estate advertisement which has since been taken down, Tarrant’s apartment was made open for inspection.
The former public housing dwelling was divided into two flats. A small bedroom was described by one person who saw an image of it as “neat”.
The gardens at the now empty property are well kept, and none of the neighbours remember Tarrant as anything but “a quiet, ordinary guy who kept to himself”.
Tarrant lived in a one-time working class suburb of Dunedin, a city considered by some to be a backwater in the far south of New Zealand’s South Island.
Known as Andy Bay, the suburb of Anderson Bay is a stretch of light residential buildings and nondescript suburban houses.
Tarrant lived in one half of a bungalow with a basic kitchen, set off Somerville Road up on a hill.
A multiple page manifesto allegedly released by Brenton Tarrant claims Dunedin’s Al Huda mosque was originally considered the target for an attack.
The manifesto also says he considered a mosque in Ashburton, a further 270km on the road up to his final destination.
But after a trip even further north, he allegedly changed targets to the two Christchurch mosques because they had “more adults and a prior history of extremism”.
On March 12, on Brenton Tarrant’s social media pages, multiple memes were posted about several historical figures, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
The accused’s alleged manifesto, The Great Replacement, says: “I will be forgotten quickly. Which I do not mind.”
But at his Saturday court hearing, Brenton Tarrant’s face appeared to light up when he saw the crowd of media packed into the heavily secured court.
A short man with wiry sandy-coloured hair balding at the top, Tarrant looked bizarre in a heavy cream “no tear” prison smock circled by a leather restraint belt, which anchored his handcuffed wrists.
Brought into the large third floor courtroom by two prison officers, he looked around at the eleven police and court security guards lining the court and then back at the rows of media, and smiled.
Two more times he looked around at the journalists packed into the room, and smiled again.
Tarrant appeared in court for less than three minutes, and was remanded in custody until April 5.
The attack on the two mosques came minutes after the 28-year-old allegedly sent his vile 73-page manifesto to several prominent email addresses, including the one belonging to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
In it, he described himself as “just a regular white man” from “a working class, low-income family”.
A spokesman from Ms Ardern’s office confirmed the document was sent to a generic address not checked by the Prime Minister herself.
On social media, posters have slammed the manifesto.
On a forum called Kiwifarms, its writer is lambasted for “neo Nazi fappery that has been on the internet for decades” and for “unoriginal” and “pathetic” ideology.
Tarrant’s house, currently under armed police guard on a quiet Dunedin street, is directly by the corner of Every Street.
The street is infamous in New Zealand for the gunshot massacre of five members of the Bain family in 1994.
David Bain, 22, was initially convicted of the murders, but later acquitted.
The death toll from Friday’s attack has risen to 50, and 36 injured people remain in hospital, with 11 in a critical condition. A four-year-old girl is among those fighting for her life in Auckland’s Starship children's hospital.
New Zealand has shown great resilience in the face of the worst act of terror in its history.
An imam who was leading prayers at the Linwood mosque at the time of the attack said the Muslim community would not be shaken by the massacre.
“We still love this country,” said Ibrahim Abdul Halim, vowing that extremists would “never, ever touch our confidence”.