William in New Zealand 'bringing comfort' after mosque attacks

25 April 2019, 01:21 | Updated: 25 April 2019, 08:46

The Duke of Cambridge has arrived in New Zealand for a two-day visit aimed at "bringing comfort" to those affected by last month's terror attacks.

Fifty people were killed when a gunman opened fire in two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch on 15 March.

Prince William is visiting New Zealand on behalf of the Queen and at the request of the country's prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she believed his presence would "bring comfort to those affected".

He arrived in Auckland on Thursday morning local time and shortly afterwards he attended an Anzac Day service at the city's war memorial with Ms Ardern and other invited guests.

The day marks the anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) landing at Gallipoli in 1915 but it has grown over the years to include remembrance for Australian and New Zealand deaths in all wars.

As he arrived at the ceremony, the prince was given a traditional Maori welcome.

He sang along with the hymn Abide With Me, parts of it sung in Maori, and he also laid a wreath of red and white flowers on behalf of the Queen, alongside Ms Ardern and Auckland's mayor Phil Goff.

But thoughts of Christchurch were never far from the minds of those at the service - the city featured in prayers, as did Sri Lanka, where 359 people were killed in a series of bombings on Easter Sunday.

In an address, Rear Admiral James Gilmour, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said New Zealand was still coming to terms with what had happened in Christchurch.

He added: "As a nation, we are still grieving the loss and the fact that this happened.

"The people of Christchurch will be experiencing this cruel nightmare."

After the service, William headed to the South Island city and on Friday he is expected to visit the mosques and meet emergency services, Muslim leaders and survivors of the attacks.

Ms Ardern, who was praised by many for her leadership after the mosque attacks, said the prince's visit "provides the opportunity to pay tribute to those affected by the mosque terrorist attacks and show support to the local and national community".

"We welcome this visit by His Royal Highness and know it will bring comfort to those affected."

It's not the first time William has been to Christchurch after tragedy - he visited after the city was devastated by an earthquake in 2011, which killed 185 people.

He is travelling without his wife the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children.