Christchurch terror attack inquest: Specialist paramedic denies reluctance to attend Linwood Islamic Centre

6:30 pm on 15 November 2023
Senior Sergeant Roy Appley was in charge of the police communications centre as the March 15 attacks unfolded.

Senior Sergeant Roy Appley. Photo: STUFF / CHRIS SKELTON

The officers who apprehended a terrorist after he attacked two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 believed he had bombs in his vehicle.

The inquest into the attacks at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre - which left 51 worshippers dead - today heard a senior police officer read out a transcript from the police radio of when the terrorist was arrested.

Senior Sergeant Roy Appley was the incident controller inside the Southern Communications Centre on the day of the attack.

Reading a transcript to the Coroners Court, Appley said one of the arresting officers transmitted over the radio at 2:02pm: "We've got one offender".

"We've got bombs in the car, he's armed up, we've got him out of the car. We crashed into him … like I said, looks like we've got bombs in the back. I don't know what's going on."

A later broadcast over the radio from one of the arresting officers said the terrorist told them he was one of 10 shooters in Canterbury that day, all with military or police training.

He also told the officers his intention was to target five mosques in Christchurch.

Appley told the court once police staff had found the terrorist's name by looking up his vehicle, he was searched on the dark web.

This was to find further information on his identity and any relevant information relating to the events unfolding, he said.

He did not know who had given the staff member instructions search the dark web, and he did not know what information was obtained.

Communication between police and St John has been questioned extensively during the inquest.

Appley said he relied on staff inside the communication centre on the day acting as runners between police and St John to relay information.

He said he did not converse with anyone from St John himself, but confirmed with staff members that information was being passed on, and the agency had been told to send ambulances to Al Noor Mosque at 2pm.

Paramedics did not enter the mosque until 15 minutes later.

Appley said he ticked off this task in his notebook so he could recall this had happened.

A man man walks past flowers and tributes displayed in memory of the twin mosque massacre victims along the road outside the Linwood mosque (back C) in Christchurch on March 25, 2019. The slaughter of 50 people at Friday prayers in two Christchurch mosques on March 15 shocked the normally laid-back country and prompted global horror, heightened by the gunman's cold-blooded livestreaming of the massacre. (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)

Tributes and flowers outside Christchurch's Linwood Islamic Centre following the 15 March 2019 terror attack. Photo: AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE

Paramedic denies reluctance to attend islamic centre after terror attack

A second specialist paramedic has denied being reluctant to continue to Linwood Islamic Centre on the day of the attack.

The inquest already heard a vehicle carrying police and two specialist St John paramedics stopped for more than six minutes on the way to the Linwood Avenue mosque.

An Australian police officer told the Coroners Court that he and an Auckland-based Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) member spent most of that time trying to convince the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) paramedics to keep driving because they were reluctant to go.

One of the paramedics, Karen Jackson, today told the inquest she disagreed with the Australian officer's recollection of events.

She said she spent most of the six minutes out of the vehicle, putting on her ballistic equipment and speaking to a woman who wanted to go to the mosque because her husband and baby were there.

"There was no reluctance or refusal, or I don't actually recall any discussions to that point," she said.

"Both of us needed to get our equipment on, which we did, and we were approached by a woman and that took some dialogue both with me and the police speaking to her.

"But in that time, I don't recall any further urging. I just recall being told we can proceed to the mosque."

2nd November 2023 Iain McGregor/The Press/Pool
Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial hearing.
Nikki Pender Ð Counsel for some families cross-examines witness Dean Brown - St John.

Lawyer Nikki Pender. Photo: Stuff / Iain McGregor

Jackson told counsel for families and victims Nikki Pender no time was wasted on the stop and the decision was "very wise".

"There's no way it would have been safe for us to proceed without our equipment on. It would have been foolish for us to go straight into a scene which could be a scene of live fire."

Once she got back into the vehicle, Jackson said her SERT colleague Dale Muller told her they could continue to the mosque, and she started driving.

She told the court she assumed either Muller or one of the police officers had asked if it was safe to go to the scene over the police radio, or they had heard it over the radio.

The inquest earlier heard there were no outbound radio transmissions from the vehicle.

Muller also denied to the court that he and Jackson needed to be persuaded to continue onto the scene. He said the stop was his idea and "no-one disagreed".

The Auckland-based AOS member also told the court the decision for SERT to pull over was a "necessary and sensible course of action".

Once inside the mosque, Jackson said she was tasked with helping a patient who was given IV fluids and later taken to hospital by ambulance.

She told the court it was her impression that police who arrived at the scene before her had done "life-saving work" to control major bleeding.

Jackson said ideally more ambulances would have been at the mosque, so each patient had someone looking after them on the way to hospital, but there were plenty of medically trained people involved and police helped with transport.

She told the court she never received a briefing from police about what they were going to encounter in Linwood, which was unlike any other job.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over six weeks:

  • events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist's formal interview by police
  • response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • triage and medical response at each mosque
  • the steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • the role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • if raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • the cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.

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