Jo Cox killing: Who is suspect Tommy Mair?
Man had history of mental illness but never spoke of politics or race, say people who know him
British police officers and forensic experts investigate the home of the suspect named as Tommy Mair, who was arrested after the shooting of British MP Jo Cox, in Birstall, Britain. Photograph: Jon Super/EPA
Murder suspect Tommy Mair helped Asian people with their English language skills and never spoke about politics or race, family and neighbours said today.
Mair (52), who is being questioned by detectives over the murder of MP Jo Cox, is alleged to have shouted “Britain first” during the fatal incident.
But Scott Mair (50), said his brother had a “history of mental illness, but he has had help”.
Mair’s mixed-race half-brother, Duane St Louis, also told reporters he had never expressed any views about Britain, politics or racist tendencies.
Neighbour Diana Peters said: “I’ve known him since he was eight years old.
“Almost daily we chatted. We never spoke about politics.
“He told me he was doing English as a second language to the Asian community in Dewsbury.
“That’s what he told me, as far as I’m aware that was right, three days a week.
‘Man of routine’
“He was a man of routine, he had certain days, as far as I was aware he had three days or part days doing the teaching, he did gardens for locals, he did the garden for a councillor who lived round the corner.
“He did gardening for neighbours. You couldn’t ask for a more pleasant neighbour. I never ever saw him lose his temper.
“He never had a visitor that I’m aware of, doesn’t have friends, nobody ever comes to the house.”
As a boy he moved south with his brother Scott to live with his grandparents in Birstall, West Yorkshire.
He lived at the same house for more than 40 years, for a long time on his own, after the death of his grandparents.
Ms Peters said: “He came to live with his grandparents, with his brother Scott, I don’t know what the family problem was. He was a very bad epileptic as a child and had fits.”
She had only seen Mair’s mother a few times when he was a child. She is believed to have been married three times, with Mair having a mixed race stepbrother after she married a man from the Caribbean.
Mair never mentioned his father.
Ms Peters said alcohol took its toll on his grandparents but Mair himself was teetotal.
“He was very quiet as a child, he was very quiet as a man. Tommy was teetotal, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink or nothing.”
Mair volunteered at Oakwell Hall country park in Birstall in 2010 after being a patient of the Mirfield-based Pathways Day Centre for adults with mental illness, according to a Huddersfield Examiner report at the time.
He told the paper: “I can honestly say it has done me more good than all the psychotherapy and medication in the world.
“Many people who suffer from mental illness are socially isolated and disconnected from society, feelings of worthlessness are also common, mainly caused by long-term unemployment.”
Ms Peters said Mair never talked about race or politics, adding: “I asked him once what his hobbies were and other than his gardening he said, ‘Well I go on the computer and I watch the television’.”
Mair was named in a 2006 edition of the Springbok Cyber Newsletter, which is produced by the hard-right Springbok Club, an organisation which has called for a return to apartheid-style government in South Africa.
The online article said he was “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of ‘SA Patriot’” and was hoping to trace his whereabouts.
A US civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), based in Alabama, claimed it had obtained records showing a Thomas Mair had links with the neo-Nazi organisation National Alliance (NA) dating back to 1999.
The SPLC posted images on Twitter showing what it claimed were purchase orders for books bought by Mair, whose address is given as Batley, from the NA’s publishing arm National Vanguard Books in May of that year.
Ms Peters said: “He’s never been racist, never heard a racist comment.
“A more mild-mannered man you couldn’t wish to meet.
“I’ve been a nurse for 40 years... if there was anything radical, mentally, I’m sure I would’ve picked up on it.
“OK, he might have been depressed at times, who of us aren’t? He’s lived alone all his life just about, and that would cause some form of depression, but there was never anything, never an inclination there was something majorly wrong.
“He didn’t appear in any shape or form to have a psychiatric problem. He may have had some depression but he’s lived alone most of his life.”