Covid restrictions meant terror attacker shopped alone - Police

By Will Trafford
Picture: NZME

Above: PM Jacinda Ardern and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster provide details on Lynn Mall shopping centre attack.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster say there was nothing unusual in the movements of the terror attacker who wounded seven people with a knife at the Lynn Mall shopping centre in West Auckland on Friday.

At a press conference at parliament, Ardern said five people are still in hospital, three of whom are critically hurt. Two others are recovering at home.

Speaking to gathered media, Commissioner Coster said the assailant arrived at 2:20 pm at the supermarket and was shopping normally for about 10 minutes before he obtained a knife and went on the frenzied attack.

Coster repeated his statement that police acted as early as they could.

"Surveillance is different from a security detail,” Coster said. “Long-term surveillance is very difficult.”

Police were alerted to the attack between 60 and 90 seconds after it had begun and ran to the scene, ultimately shooting the man dead, Coster said.

He said officers had waited at the entrance of the supermarket due to Tāmaki’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions where customers must shop alone.

Ardern reiterated her desire to release additional information on the man who arrived as a 22-year-old student in 2011, notably his immigration status.

She says the courts have given his family a 24-hour period before the information is released.

On Friday, the Prime Minister said the man’s extreme views were well known to security services, he had been under surveillance as early as 2016 and she had been briefed on the case.

NZME reports the man was previously arrested and charged with possessing ISIS propaganda material and says intelligence services also pursued him for planning a knife attack earlier this year.

There is no penalty in Aotearoa's law for planning a terrorist attack, something the government had been seeking to institute as recently as yesterday, hours before the attack the PM said.

The Prime Minister and Coster again addressed why the man was allowed to circulate in the community.

"We have had no legal grounds to detain this subject," Coster said.

Coster acknowledged the first aid given to the victims by professionals and members of the public.