New Zealand Police Listed Wrong Person as Killed in Mosque Shooting

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The suspected gunman in last week’s attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was charged with murder for the death of one victim — but the police announced on Thursday that that supposed victim was in fact alive.

A police spokesman said that the charge sheet would be corrected, with a new name, and legal experts said the mistake would not impede prosecution in the mass shooting that left 50 people dead.

“In our system there is a provision to amend the charge at any time, and the issue is whether the amendment is in the interest of justice,” said Jonathan Eaton, a lawyer and former prosecutor specializing in criminal law. “I will imagine there will be a fairly hasty effort to amend that charging document.”

The names of the person incorrectly included on the charge sheet — and the one being added — are both subject to a suppression order by Judge Paul Kellar.

Judge Kellar ruled on Saturday during the first court appearance of the suspect, Brenton H. Tarrant, that the person he was said to have killed should temporarily not be publicly identified to avoid causing harm to the person’s family.

The police said they had apologized to the person they named in error, but they did not respond to requests for further details.

The mistake was uncovered when reporters noticed a discrepancy between the police’s official list of names, which was released on Thursday, and the names identified by victims and other sources. Radio New Zealand, which first reported the police’s mistake, counted 51 names when the police insisted that there were 50.

Mr. Eaton said it was embarrassing but perhaps understandable for a police force overwhelmed by a crime like nothing it had ever seen.

“When you’re dealing with something for which there is no established response, which you’ve never experienced before, then things are going to be thrown up that you’re going to have to learn from,” he said. “There are mistakes made and learnings for sure.”

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