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Funerals to take place this week of New Zealand massacre dead

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque in Wellington

By Nick Perry

A steady stream of mourners paid tribute yesterday at a makeshift memorial to the 50 people killed by a gunman at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Hundreds of flowers were piled up amid candles, balloons and notes of grief and love outside the Al Noor mosque. As a light rain fell, people clutched each other and wept quietly.

"We wish we knew your name to write upon your heart. We wish we knew your favourite song, what makes you smile, what makes you cry," read one of the tributes, which contained cut-out paper hearts under a nearby tree. "We made a heart for you. 50 hearts for 50 lives."

Two days after Friday's attack, the country's deadliest shooting in modern history, relatives were still waiting for authorities to release the bodies.

Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.

Supporters arrived from across the country to help with the burials and authorities sent in excavators to dig graves in readiness at a site that was newly fenced off and blocked from view with white netting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was hoped to release all the bodies by Wednesday, and police commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they could. "We have to be absolutely clear on the cause of death and confirm their identity before that can happen," Mr Bush added. "But we are so aware of the cultural and religious needs. So we are doing that as quickly and as sensitively as possible."

Police said they had released a preliminary list of the victims to families, which has helped give closure to some who were waiting for news.

The killer, white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant (28), appeared in court on Saturday amid tight security, shackled and wearing all-white prison garb. He showed no emotion when the judge read one murder charge and said more would probably follow.

What appeared to be a jumbled 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto was posted online before the attacks.

Ms Ardern said the manifesto had been sent to her office email about nine minutes before the attacks, although she had not received the email directly herself.

She said her office was one of about 30 recipients and it was forwarded to parliamentary security within a couple of minutes of it being received.

Mr Bush said at a news conference that another body had been found at Al Noor mosque as they finished removing the victims, bringing the number of people killed there to 42.

A further seven people were killed at Linwood mosque and one more person died later at Christchurch Hospital.

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