Nazi sympathiser gets life in jail for murder of MP Jo Cox

Mother of two was shot and stabbed by Thomas Mair shortly before Brexit referendum

Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed by Thomas Mair last June. She was 41 years old. Photograph: Yui Mok/West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire

Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed by Thomas Mair last June. She was 41 years old. Photograph: Yui Mok/West Yorkshire Police/PA Wire

 

An extreme right-wing terrorist has been sentenced to prison for the rest of his life for the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox after a seven-day Old Bailey trial in which he made no effort to defend himself.

Thomas Mair repeatedly shot and stabbed Cox during the EU referendum campaign in June last year. During the attack he was saying “this is for Britain”, “keep Britain independent”, and “Britain first”, the court heard.

The judge said Mair would have to serve a whole-life sentence due to the “exceptional seriousness” of the offence.

Mr Justice Wilkie refused a request from Mair for an opportunity to address the court, saying he had already plenty of chances to explain himself, and had not done so.

Cox, the judge told Mair, was not only a “passionate, open-hearted, inclusive and generous” person, but a true patriot. He, on the other hand “affected patriotism” and admired the Nazis.

“It is evident from your internet searches that your inspiration is not love of country, it is an admiration for Nazis and similar anti-democratic white supremacist creeds,” Wilkie said.

The crime, he added, had been inspired by “white supremacism and exclusive nationalism, which is associated with nazism in its modern forms”.

Mair attacked Cox on June 16th this year after she got out of a car in Birstall, a small market town in West Yorkshire that was part of her Batley and Spen constituency. Mair shot her twice in the head and once in the chest with a sawn-off .22 hunting rifle before stabbing her 15 times.

The MP died shortly afterwards in the back of an ambulance, despite emergency surgery. She was 41, and the mother of two children, then aged five and three.

Evidence quickly gathered by the police, including books found at Mair’s home and an examination of his online activities, showed him to be obsessed with the Nazis, notions of white supremacy and apartheid-era South Africa.

It was, the crown said, a politically or ideologically motivated murder. The crime was also regarded as a terrorism offence and was described as such at preliminary hearings, but the word terrorism was not used before the jury.

There were two reasons for this. Mair was charged with murder, which is a crime under common law and not an offence under counter-terrorism legislation; and the jury was only to be asked to decide whether or not Mair had committed the crime of murder. It was not asked to consider his motivation.

Prosecutors acknowledge privately that the febrile atmosphere in which the EU referendum campaign was waged appears certain to have contributed to Mair’s decision to murder his MP, but this played no part in their case. There was no need to refer to the referendum in order to establish his guilt.

The evidence against the 53-year-old unemployed gardener had been overwhelming. He lived in Birstall and witnesses to the attack included people who had known him all his life. The incident was also captured on CCTV, as was his escape.

Brutality

Mair was charged with Cox’s murder; the grievous bodily harm of Bernard Carter-Kenny (77), a retired coal miner who was stabbed in the stomach after going to her assistance; possession of the firearm with intent to commit an offence; and possession of a dagger. He was found guilty on all four counts.

He never denied the offences, but neither did he admit to them. When he appeared at the Old Bailey last month via video link from Belmarsh prison in southeast London, he refused to enter a plea. He made clear that he could see and hear what was happening in court, but when asked how he pleaded, he stared down the camera and said nothing. During the trial he did not offer a defence.

As a consequence, not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf to all four charges, as required by law.

Russell Flint QC, the defence counsel, said Cox had been brutally and callously murdered and her death had had a huge impact on hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, including her husband, parents and young children. He said it was the jury’s duty to decide whether Mair was responsible beyond reasonable doubt. “It is you and you alone who have been charged with the responsibility in determining what are the true verdicts in each of the counts on the indictment.”

Each day during the trial, Mair remained immobile and impassive, staring straight ahead and rarely looking around. He used a notepad, but instead of making notes about the trial, he could be seen to be writing down the names of people in court whom he recognised: a TV journalist, an MP from a neighbouring constituency and a member of Cox’s family.

It was, an observer said, as though he was recording the identities of the people who had come to see him have his day in court.

Husband’s reaction

Cox’s grieving husband has said he hopes her death “will have meaning” following the conviction of Thomas Mair for her murder. Speaking outside the Old Bailey after Mair was handed a “whole life” sentence, Brendan Cox said the ideas and values “she held so dear will live on” after the Labour MP’s death.

He called her murder “an act of terrorism” and said that while it was driven by hatred, it had instead “created an outpouring of love”. “As a family, we will not respond to hatred with hatred,” said Mr Cox. “We will love like Jo did and know that, although she is dead, the ideas and values that she held so dear will live on.

“And know that, although she is not with us, her energy and her love are hard-wired into our children for the rest of their lives. Finally, we hope the country will also take something from this – that Jo’s death will have meaning.

“That those in politics, the media and our own communities who seek to divide us will face an unassailable wall of British tolerance and the articulation of Jo’s belief that we hold more in common than that which divides us.”

Mr Cox also praised the efforts of the police, the wider emergency services and the courts. “To the person who did this we have nothing but pity — that his life was so devoid of love and consumed with hatred that this became his desperate and cowardly attempt to find meaning,” he added.

“The killing of Jo was a political act, an act of terrorism, but in the history of such acts, it was perhaps the most incompetent and self-defeating. “An act driven by hatred which instead has created an outpouring of love. An act designed to drive communities apart which has instead pulled them together. An act designed to silence a voice which instead has allowed millions of others to hear it.”

Guardian service/PA