Friday 19 January 2018

Neo-Nazi to spend rest of life in jail for murdering MP Cox

MP Jo Cox. Photo: PA
MP Jo Cox. Photo: PA
Thomas Mair. Photo: PA
Brendan Cox, husband of MP Jo Cox, outside the Old Bailey after the conviction. Photo: Reuters
Mrs Cox’s parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Martin Evans

A far-Right extremist has been given a whole-life sentence after being convicted of murdering Labour MP Jo Cox.

Thomas Mair was told he would never be released after killing the mother of two as she arrived at Birstall library in West Yorkshire for a surgery on June 16, a week before the EU referendum.

The 53-year-old, who hid his Nazi obsession for decades, showed no emotion as he was taken down from the dock to begin his sentence. A jury took just over 90 minutes to convict Mair.

Mair, who shouted "Britain first" and had a stash of neo-Nazi material at his home, was tried under the terrorism protocol.

The Old Bailey heard how he collected a dossier on the 41-year-old 'Remain' campaigning MP before launching his murderous attack.

As the verdicts were read out, Mrs Cox's parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater clasped their hands together and nodded.

Mrs Cox's family hugged and shook hands with prosecutor Richard Whittam and appeared tearful as they left court.

Mrs Cox's husband, Brendan Cox, told the Old Bailey he was not there for "retribution" and felt "nothing but pity for" Mair. He also described the far-right killer as "cowardice personified".

In a statement, he said: "The killing was in my view a political act and an act of terrorism. An act driven by hatred which has instead promoted an outpouring of love."

After the verdicts were read out, Mair, who had refused to enter a plea and did not put forward a defence, said he wished to address the court, but the judge refused to give him permission.

Addressing Mair directly, the judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, said: "In the true meaning of the word, she was a patriot. You affect to be a patriot. You are no patriot.

"By your actions, you have betrayed the quintessence of our country - parliamentary democracy. You have not even had the courage to admit what you did.

"This was a brutal, ruthless murder...there is no doubt it was done to further a political move."

Mair was also convicted of stabbing 77-year-old retired miner Bernard Kenny, who tried to save the MP. In a statement, Mr Kenny described Mair's actions as a "pure act of evil". He said he would do the same thing again as it was "the right thing to do", even though his actions were not enough to save Mrs Cox.

At the conclusion of the prosecution case, Mair's lawyer Simon Russell Flint called no evidence on behalf of the defendant, of Lowood Lane, Birstall.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Mr Whittam told jurors: "At 13.48 on the 16th of June in Market Street outside the public library in Birstall, the democratically-elected MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered as she carried out her duties on behalf of her electorate."

Mr Whittam said her attack "brought out the best of the people who were with her" - the two members of staff and Birstall residents who came to her aid.

Despite having the "element of surprise", Mair failed in his first attempt and came back to shoot and stab Mrs Cox again, the court heard. Mr Whittam said: "Perhaps he underestimated Jo Cox's tenacity and courage."

He said that all the evidence "compellingly establishes Thomas Mair was her murderer". Mr Whittam went on to say it was fitting that the case had been held before another woman - whose statue holding the scales of justice adorns the Old Bailey.

At the conclusion of the evidence, the scales were "weighted only one way", he said.

Mr Whittam said there was a "comprehensive" catalogue of evidence against Mair, including CCTV footage, the testimony of eyewitnesses, DNA and gunshot residue, ballistics and physical evidence.

He told jurors: "The comprehensive nature of the evidence does not mean the defence case is bereft of points to make.

"We submit to you that those points have no sufficient substance to cause any dent to the prosecution case."

Defending Mair, Mr Russell Flint said the killing of Mrs Cox as she carried out her "public duties" had been "truly shocking and appalling".

He told the court: "She was brutally and callously murdered and there is no issue or dispute about that."

Mr Russell Flint said: "Mrs Cox's death, you know, has touched many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, some who knew her and knew her well - her parents, her sibling, her husband, her children, not forgetting her friends and her colleagues who will forever be scarred by what happened to her in the street of that small West Yorkshire town on that June afternoon and will forever mourn her passing."

As she lay mortally wounded in the street, the MP for Batley and Spen tried to protect her aides by urging them to leave her and save themselves.

During the trial, Mrs Cox's family were left in tears as her constituency caseworker Sandra Major described the MP's selfless response as she came under attack from Mair.

She told jurors: "He was making motions towards us with the knife and Jo was lying in the road and she shouted out 'get away, get away you two. Let him hurt me. Don't let him hurt you'."

Her account prompted Mr Cox to tweet, "this is who Jo was".

Her colleague Fazila Aswat hit Mair with her handbag and pleaded with Mrs Cox to think of her two young children and get up and run.

Despite being too hurt to move away, Mrs Cox's thwarted Mair's initial attack as she shielded her head with her hands. Mair briefly walked away to reload the adapted sawn-off .22 rifle before returning to shoot and stab her again.

Mr Kenny, who by coincidence shared his birthday with Mrs Cox, staggered back and "flopped" down on the steps of a sandwich shop.

The attack was captured on grainy CCTV and witnessed by 16 members of the public who travelled to the Old Bailey to give evidence.

They described the popping noise of Mair's gun and how he threatened to stab people if they got in his way.

Afterwards, Mair walked away as if he had "not a care in the world", the court heard.

Despite discarding some clothes, Mair was swiftly tracked down a mile away, still carrying his holdall containing the blood-splattered murder weapons.

They included a reproduction of a Fairbairn-Sykes "fighting dagger", a design first made in 1941 for British special forces and commando units, with a 17.4cm blade.

Following his arrest, police uncovered a hoard of neo-Nazi literature at his council house.

An investigation of his use of library computers exposed Mair's interest in far right, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi politics in Britain and abroad. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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