Sir David Amess terrorist Ali Harbi Ali found guilty of murder
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Jurors at the Old Bailey took just 18 minutes to return unanimous verdicts after one of the briefest retirements in living memory. Ali, 26, was also convicted of preparing acts of terrorism by plotting to kill other politicians, including Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove. Yesterday, Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, said Ali would “rot in jail and die in ignominy”.
Armed with a kitchen knife, Ali murdered Tory Sir David, 69, at a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on October 15 last year.
Ali, of Kentish Town, north London, posed as a new constituent to secure an appointment with the SouthendWest MP.
He hoped he would be shot dead by police after stabbing the father of five 21 times. But he was arrested in the church by two brave plainclothes officers armed only with batons and incapacitant sprays.
Ali is set to be handed a whole life term when he is sentenced tomorrow.
Sir David is the second MP in five years to be murdered. Ms Cox, 41, was killed by a far-Right extremist in 2016.
After Ali was convicted, Mr Cox, 43, tweeted: “There was no other possible verdict.
“Like the killing of Jo, all it has achieved politically has been to allow millions of people to learn about David’s decency and the causes he cared about.
“The terrorist will rot in jail and die in ignominy. David’s name will be remembered, especially by the people of Southend who he served.”
Mr Cox added: “Terrorists may cite different ideologies. But what unites them is their desire for infamy, their cowardly attacks on the unarmed and the total failure to advance their cause.
“All of my thoughts and love are with David’s family today.”
Ali said he had spent at least two years researching which MP to murder.
He killed Sir David because he had voted for air strikes against terror group Islamic State in Syria in 2014 and 2015.
Ali had been assessed by Prevent, the official UK anti-radicalisation scheme. But it is understood that in 2015, Prevent deemed he did not pose a significant danger of terrorist violence and his case was closed.
At the Old Bailey Ali denied both charges – a decision that meant Sir David’s family had to endure the added torment of a trial.
And in a petty act of defiance, he refused to stand up in the dock before the verdicts were announced, mumbling: “I can’t for religious reasons.”
He was chillingly calm in the witness box last week, when he referred to his victim by his first name as he described the atrocity and his desire to be a “martyr”.
He told the jury: “I regret nothing. I feel no shame.” Asked what difference the killing of Sir David would make,Ali said: “He won’t be able to vote in Parliament again.”
In a legal direction, Mr Justice Sweeney told jurors Ali’s account was no lawful defence to the charges he faced.
Sir David had reviewed his security following the murder of Batley and Spen MP Ms Cox in Birstall, West Yorks.
But lockdown had robbed him of contact with his constituents for too long and he was keen to get back in touch.
He decided the best way was monthly surgeries around the constituency – and churches were the ideal venue.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday: “Sir David Amess was a beloved colleague, public servant and friend who championed the city of Southend in everything he did. My thoughts today remain with [his wife] Julia, the Amess family and all those who knew and loved him.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey tweeted after the verdicts: “Good. Justice delivered, though we will never have Sir David back.”
Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s counter-terrorism division, called Sir David’s murder “an attack on our da democracy…on all of us, an attack on our way of life”.
He said: “Ali chose to commit this abhorrent crime for his own selfish and hateful reasons. There is no place for terrorism in our society and we will continue to prosecute these acts.”
Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal tweeted: “Ali Harbi Ali deserves the whole life order (leave prison only in a coffin) he will surely get for murdering David Amess.
“His criminal narcissism took away a good man from his loved ones.”
Detective Chief Supt Dominic Murphy, of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, said: “I found Ali Harbi Ali’s behaviour in court to be quite disgraceful and disrespectful to his victims. It’s a measure of him as an individual and I’m pleased to say that on his conviction, he’ll be hopefully spending a considerable amount of time in prison.
“I hope Ali Harbi Ali’s conviction will help the family to bring some closure to the dreadful events that have happened.”
Sir David was first elected as an MP in Basildon, in 1983. He became the MP for Southend West in 1997 and was knighted in 2015. He and Lady Amess had one son and four daughters, including the actress Katie Amess, 36.
From bright student to extremist
ALI Harbi Ali once dreamed of becoming a doctor and saving lives – but he was turned into a ruthless killer by extremist propaganda on the internet.
Born in south London in 1996, his father was a former Somali government official. Ali then moved ten miles to a terraced house in Croydon.
He attended the local Minster Junior School, where his younger brother and two sisters also went. It was a Christian establishment where he enjoyed singing hymns.
The future terrorist assassin was a clever boy and his family were proud when he revealed he wanted to study medicine. A member of staff said: “They were happy at a Christian school and took part in our regular worship.
“Ali was a hard-working child, good at maths. We had plenty of naughty boys but he wasn’t one of them.”
He later attended the Riddlesdown Collegiate school in nearby Purley and was expected to go on to university. But by the time he reached the sixth form, Ali was in the thrall of extreme Islamist propaganda. He calmly recalled: “My life had taken a different direction.”
In 2014, a teacher referred Ali to Prevent, the Government programme aimed at stopping people becoming radicalised. Police questioned him and booked him to meet a Home Office official. Ali attended but kept quiet.
His two laptops and four mobile phones showed he had viewed extreme Isis material. Ali wanted to go to Syria and take part in the Uprising but he told the court he was put off by the number of British-based terror suspects intercepted by police.
Instead, he answered the call from Isis leaders to act as a lone wolf and commit an atrocity.
Ali bought an 8in kitchen knife from Argos for £20 and hid the weapon for six years while he plotted to kill MPs.
Brave cops in line for medals
TWO unarmed policemen who tackled Ali are set to be decorated for bravery.
PCs Ryan Curtis and Scott James – already awarded the Merit Star, Essex Police’s highest accolade – are being considered for gallantry medals. The pair were not in uniform or wearing stab vests as they approached Ali after he attacked Sir David.
They had only extendable batons and incapacitant sprays as the murderer waved a bloodied knife at them. Ali had threatened to stab anyone who tried to get to the mortally wounded MP.
Although armed police were just minutes away, the officers risked their lives as there might have been a chance to save Sir David.
PC James said yesterday: “No-one knew if there were any other members of the public inside with the attacker. There was no option other than for Ryan and I to go inside without Taser or firearms support.
“We couldn’t stand outside if there was a chance other people were getting attacked and we also wanted to get paramedics inside the building as soon as possible to save Sir David.
“One minute we were conducting a routine arrest and the next we were on blue lights to the church.”
PC Curtis added: “We wanted to stop anyone else being seriously injured.”
The duo were attending another job when they heard on their radios about the attack. The officers, whose courage was recorded on bodycam, may be in line for the George Cross, the George Medal, the Queen’s Gallantry Medal or the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
Darren King and Yvonne Eaves, witnesses threatened by Ali after the stabbing, may also get bravery awards.
End of marriage stopped attempt on minister’s life
MICHAEL Gove once topped killer Ali Harbi Ali’s list of targets. But the Levelling Up Secretary’s failed marriage probably saved his life.
Police inquiries revealed how Ali stalked Mr Gove with an eight-inch kitchen knife in his rucksack.
A security source said: “Ali took significant steps to plan the possible murder of Mr Gove. But he aborted the plan after he and his wife split up. It seems the marriage breakdown has probably stopped an attempt…as Ali no longer knew where Mr Gove lived.”
An image on the killer’s mobile phone showed the minister outside the west London house he shared with his now estranged wife, journalist SarahVine.
Ali even listed possible opportunities to easily attack, and a favourite was to ambush Mr Gove while he was out for a morning jog.
He also considered smashing his front door. He noted: “Door is wooden and swings into house. Could be kicked in.”
The list, last modified in May, ended with the note: “Scout on Wednesday.”
Two months later, Mr Gove left home after his separation. The terrorist also considered Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, north London.
The phone showed how he “scoped out” Mr Freer’s constituency surgery less than four weeks before he attacked Sir David.
Ali was also caught on CCTV around Westminster as he plotted to murder MPs. But he was put off by the armed police. “I bottled out,” he recalled.
He also did internet research on Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Defence Secretary BenWallace and the ex-Chancellor Nigel Lawson, aged 90.
MP championed voice of children
SIR David Amess spearheaded the Children’s Parliament, which was first assembled a fortnight after his death. The first Wakelet Microsoft 365 Children’s Parliament last October was attended online by 270 under-12s.
Sir David’s child MP “match” was Lola Hillgrove, the daughter of public relations expert Richard Hillgrove, who also worked on the project.
Mr Hillgrove said: “He was passionate about young people learning about the political process…Allowing children a voice on topics that matter is vital.” He blasted Sir David’s killer Ali, saying: “The fact this disgusting animal [can] go ‘not guilty’, then spend his time in court gloating about killing an MP is another heinous act in itself.”
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