A man was found guilty on Monday of stabbing Conservative MP David Amess to death and plotting to attack other British politicians including Michael Gove.
Ali Harbi Ali (26), who was fuelled by Islamic State propaganda, carried out the "cold and calculating" murder at the veteran MP's constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on October 15th last year.
He told the Old Bailey trial in London he had no regrets about the murder, defending his actions by saying Sir David deserved to die as a result of voting in parliament for air strikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015.
A jury deliberated for just 18 minutes to find Ali guilty of murder and preparing for terrorist acts. Mr Justice Sweeney said Ali, who refused to stand up in the dock on “religious grounds” as he was convicted, would be sentenced on Wednesday.
Sir David’s family sat in the well of the courtroom as the verdicts were delivered, just metres from Ali in the dock. Ali sent a manifesto on WhatsApp to family and friends seeking to justify his actions around the time of the attack, telling the Southend West MP he was “sorry” before plunging the knife into him, causing the politician to scream. He died at the scene.
Knife-wielding Ali was later apprehended by two police officers armed only with batons and spray. Essex Police Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow praised his officers' "astounding bravery" in tackling Ali. He said: "They've basically gone in armed with a stick – something that appears smaller than a deodorant can – to deal with a man that has just committed an absolutely heinous act, still armed with that knife. "I think it's an astounding act of bravery."
Director of public prosecutions Max Hill aid the murder was “the most appalling tragedy”, particularly for the Amess family, and an “attack on democracy”. He said: “I’m obviously pleased that at the end of what must have been a very difficult trial for Sir David Amess’s family, justice has been served and this individual will now pay the price for his crimes.”
The court heard how London-born Ali had become self-radicalised in 2014, going on to drop out of university, abandoning ambitions for a career in medicine. The defendant, who came from an influential Somali family and said he had a childhood “full of love and care”, considered travelling to Syria to fight but by 2019 opted for an attack in Britain.
Ali bought a £20 knife from Argos six years ago which he carried in his bag throughout the summer of 2021 as he “scoped out” possible targets, jurors heard. He carried out reconnaissance on the Houses of Parliament but found police there “armed to the teeth”.
Ali carried out online research on MPs including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab and defence secretary Ben Wallace. He staked out the west London home of levelling up secretary Mr Gove six times and wrote detailed notes on how he might get to him. Scenarios included mingling with media, bumping into him jogging, ringing his doorbell, and causing a scene to "lure" him out.
Ali rejected the plan after Mr Gove split up with his wife and was thought to have moved out of the family home. He was later to tell police: “It was... so convenient to go to that address but I just, I don’t know why I didn’t do that one.”
Ali, from Kentish Town, north London, was also spotted lurking outside Finchley MP Mike Freer’s constituency office, jurors were told. By September last year, Ali had settled on Sir David as an easy target after seeing his upcoming surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Twitter.
He made an appointment through the MP’s office, falsely claiming he was moving to the area and was interested in churches. On the morning of October 15th last year, he was caught on CCTV as he made his way by foot and train to Essex.
Within minutes of meeting Sir David, Ali pulled out a 30cm carving knife and stabbed him more than 20 times. He waved the bloody knife and threatened to kill the MP’s two female aides and a couple who had arrived for their appointment.
Sir David’s assistant Julie Cushion told jurors he appeared “self-satisfied” in the wake of the brutal killing. In police interview, he spoke calmly about his terror plot and admitted allegiance to Islamic State. He told officers Sir David immediately suspected a “sting”, having been duped into talking about a fake drug “cake” in the television series Brass Eye.
He went on: “I felt like one minute I was sat down at the table talking to him and the next he was, sort of, dead. But, yeah, it’s probably one of the strangest days... of my life now, y’know?”
Jurors were told Ali had no mental health issues and he accepted much of the evidence against him. Sir David was killed five years after Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency. His death led to renewed concern around the safety of MPs. – PA