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New Zealand born woman from Norfolk recalls day she was one street away from Christchurch shootings

PUBLISHED: 10:08 21 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:56 21 April 2019

Jan Clay and her brother a week later in Hamilton New Zealand. Photo: Jan Clay

Jan Clay and her brother a week later in Hamilton New Zealand. Photo: Jan Clay

Jan Clay

A New Zealander who lives in west Norfolk has described her shock and disbelief as the killing of 50 Muslim worshippers unfolded just yards away from her.

Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch central just across the park from the Mosque, taken by Jan Clay the day before the shooting.Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch central just across the park from the Mosque, taken by Jan Clay the day before the shooting.

A New Zealander who lives in west Norfolk has described her shock and disbelief as the killing of 50 Muslim worshippers unfolded just a street away from her.

A month on from the Al Noor mosque shootings on March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand, by Australian Brenton Tarrant, the lives of survivors and the families of victims have changed irrevocably.

Jan Clay lives in Grimston, but was born and raised in New Zealand and was visiting family who live just yards from the mosque on the day of the attack.

She said she couldn't believe what was happening, and recalls the day everything changed in the city.

Regrent Street, Christchurch is just a street away from the where the shootings took place. Photo: Jan ClayRegrent Street, Christchurch is just a street away from the where the shootings took place. Photo: Jan Clay

“I arrived at my niece's at 1pm and at 1.30pm I got a text message from my daughter telling me to stay away from Christchurch as there were armed police and firearms units at the mosque.

“We didn't have the radio or TV on so had no idea what she meant. We could hear some sirens, but it was a city, it's expected,” she said.

“My niece picked her three-year-old daughter up from nursery just as it was being locked down.”

No-one in the city knew exactly what was going on, but it was at this point Ms Clay began to get messages from America and the UK asking if she was okay and was safe.

“By 3.30pm we could hear a lot of sirens so we locked the door,” she said.

“The news was very slow coming in and when we heard the initial stories we thought it was the media making it out to be bad, but it was actually much, much worse. It wasn't until the early hours of the morning that the true numbers killed were known.

“People were shocked, in total disbelief. It is generally a very peaceful and safe country. The police aren't armed or have training, places don't go into lockdown, it was so unusual.”

In February 2012 Christchurch was hit by an earthquake which devastated the city, and Ms Clay says that the city was only now starting to recover and people were getting optimistic.

She said: “The next day everyone was very sombre, people could not go near the mosque or park, streets were still cordoned off. The feeling was why us again?', 'Why here?”

When asked if being so close to the incident had changed her feelings or outlook on life Ms Clay said it had not.

“If we start living life in fear, you let the people committing these acts win. We need to show that we are not scared.

“I am a New Zealander from birth and I'm very sad it happened in my country.”

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