Belfast Telegraph

Co Armagh teen charged with making online death threats to New Zealand PM after Christchurch killings

Matthew Burns leaves court yesterday. He’s accused of making threats against Jacinda Ardern and London mayor Sadiq Khan
Matthew Burns leaves court yesterday. He’s accused of making threats against Jacinda Ardern and London mayor Sadiq Khan
Jacinda Ardern
London Mayor Sadiq Khan

By Donal McMahon

A teenager has appeared in court charged with making online death threats to the Prime Minister of New Zealand days after the Christchurch massacre.

Matthew Burns, who allegedly told police he had far-right political leanings, appeared before Newry Magistrates Court yesterday.

A detective said he believed he could connect Burns (19), of Dundalk Road, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh, to the charges.

The accused's parents and sister attended the court.

As the charges were read out Burns's mother held her hand to her head and closed her eyes.

He is accused of making threats on social media to Jacinda Ardern, who recently touched hearts with her emotional response to mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand.

A Twitter message to the Prime Minister was said to have been made directly after the right-wing terrorist attack.

The court heard that a photo of a gun silencer was sent with the message "you're next".

The defendant was further charged with making similar threats to the Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn.

The accused was arrested on Thursday and taken to Banbridge PSNI station for questioning.

Two dates of offending are said to have taken place on Twitter and Facebook, in December 2018 and March 20 this year.

During interview Burns stated that he had far-right political leanings and had negative sentiments towards minorities, Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

Volumes of similar posts towards minorities were said to be under investigation by the PSNI cyber unit.

An application was made to restrict reporting due to the defendant's believed poor mental health and attempts at self-harm, indicating a suicidal nature.

District Judge McGarrity rejected the application due to a lack of medical evidence being brought before the court.

The defendant was released on £500 bail to his parents' custody with a £1,000 cash surety with the condition that he has no internet connection and adheres to a curfew.

The magistrate warned Burns: "The police are going to be watching you... next time the courts may not be so sympathetic as today."

The case was adjourned to May 8.

The New Zealand Labour Party leader became a familiar face on TV screens in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack last month.

The March 15 shootings at two mosques left 50 people dead and dozens wounded.

Afterwards Ms Ardern described it as one of New Zealand's "darkest days".

She said: "What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand.

"Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities - New Zealand is their home, they are us."

Australian Brenton Tarrant (28), a self-described white supremacist, has been charged with murder.

Ms Ardern became the country's youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years in October 2017 at the age of 37.

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