The Labour MP Jo Cox was shot three times and stabbed repeatedly in a preplanned murder with a political or ideological motive, the trial of the accused man has been told.
Thomas Mair repeatedly said the words "Britain first" as he carried out the attack, Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the Old Bailey on Monday. He struck as Cox went about her business in her constituency during the EU referendum campaign.
“It was a cowardly attack by a man armed with a firearm and a knife,” Mr Whittam told the jury on the opening day of the trial, adding: “It was a premeditated murder for a political and/or ideological cause.”
Mr Mair is accused of the murder of Cox on June 16th this year; possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence; possession of a dagger; and grievous bodily harm to a passerby, Bernard Carter Kenny.
The 53-year-old unemployed gardener declined to enter a plea when he appeared at the Old Bailey last month. As a consequence, not guilty pleas to all the charges were entered on his behalf.
Mr Mair is alleged to have killed Ms Cox when she was on her way to a meeting with voters in his home town, Birstall, which is within Batley and Spen, the West Yorkshire constituency to which she had been elected in the general election last year. Ms Cox was 41 when she died, and had two children, then aged five and three.
The jury was told that they would not be permitted to serve if they were closely involved in the operation of
or the Save the Children Fund, two charities with which Ms Cox was associated.
The judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, also told them that the case "has attracted considerable public interest and publicity", but that they should not carry out any research on the internet, and avoid media reports of the trial.
Mr Mair, wearing a black tie and dark grey suit, sat making notes as the evidence against him began to be outlined.
Items found at Mr Mair's home in Lowood Lane, Birstall, showed he had "strong political and ideological interests", Mr Whittam added. The court heard that Mr Mair had used the computers at the same library in the weeks leading up to the killing to access websites.
In May, the prosecutor said, Mr Mair accessed the Wikipedia page of an online publication called the Occidental Observer. Wikipedia described it as a “far-right” publication “that covers politics and society from a white nationalist and anti-Semitic perspective”.
In the days immediately before the killing he returned to view more online material, the court heard. On June 13th, he looked at the Twitter and Wikipedia pages for Ms Cox, and the Wikipedia page for Conservative Ian Gow, whose killing by the IRA in 1990 made him the last sitting MP to be murdered until that point, jurors were told.
Mr Mair went on to view information about former foreign secretary
, who like Ms Cox supported remaining in the EU. Mr Whittam said Mr Mair also looked at information on .22 gun ammunition, including answers to the question: “Is a .22 round deadly enough to kill with one shot to a human head?”
The next day, he returned to look at websites on "matricide" – the murder of your mother – Nazi material, the death penalty in Japan, political prisoners and the human liver and spinal column.
The jury was shown a series of closed circuit television clips from Birstall, which showed Mr Mair making his way through the town, carrying a bag, on the day that Ms Cox was killed. He could be seen to be "hovering around" outside the library before Ms Cox arrived with her constituency manager, Fazila Aswat, and caseworker Sandra Major.
As the jury was shown CCTV images of the attack, Mr Mair sat staring straight ahead, ignoring the screens around the court on which they appeared. “It was, as you can tell, a dynamic, fast-moving and shocking” attack, Mr Whittam told the jury.
Ms Aswat saw Mr Mair stab Ms Cox, shoot her, then stab both Ms Cox and Mr Carter Kenny, who had attempted to intervene. Then she saw Mr Mair shoot Ms Cox again. During the attack, Mr Whittam said, Ms Aswat could hear Mr Mair saying: “Britain first, this is for Britain, Britain will always come first.”