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'There's hell on, it's chaos': 999 call played to Jo Cox murder trial jury

Published 17/11/2016

Thomas Mair is accused of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox
Thomas Mair is accused of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox

A horrified witness dialled 999 after MP Jo Cox was brutally attacked and told the operator: "There's hell on, it's chaos", a court has heard.

Darren Playford urged emergency services to hurry after Thomas Mair, 53, allegedly shot and stabbed the 41-year-old Remain campaigner outside her surgery in Birstall, near Leeds, on June 16.

Jurors in Mair's Old Bailey murder trial were played a recording of the call in which Mr Playford said the attacker had "stabbed and shot people".

A succession of eyewitnesses have told the Old Bailey trial how mother-of-two Mrs Cox was attacked by a knife-wielding man who warned them they had "better move back" or else be stabbed.

The man shot the Batley and Spen MP twice and then reloaded the gun to shoot her once more before he calmly walked away "with not a care in the world", the court heard.

In the 999 call, Mr Playford told how the man followed him down Union Street as he fled after witnessing the attack.

He said: "He's shooting everyone."

The operator said: "Who's shooting everyone?"

He replied: "The gunman. Outside the library in Birstall."

He told how the man had "stabbed a lady", adding: "He's following me at the moment. I'm just trying to get away from him. If you sent the helicopter up he's walking towards Huddersfield Road."

Mr Playford then kept talking to the operator and kept them informed about the man going behind the Vaults pub and changing his clothes.

He said: "If you hurry up you'll get him. There's hell on. It's chaos, he's stabbed and shot people."

Mrs Cox was set upon outside her constituency surgery in Birstall in front of her staff and shocked residents.

Her assistant stepped in and hit the man with her handbag, while 78-year-old Bernard Carter-Kenny desperately tried to intervene but was stabbed too, the trial has heard.

Taxi driver Rashid Hussain, pulled up at around the same time as Mrs Cox's arrival at Birstall library in a silver Vauxhall Astra.

As he was giving his fare her change, he heard what sounded like a "firecracker", jurors were told.

Mr Hussain demonstrated in the witness box how the man had stabbed Mrs Cox five or six times in front of him.

He said: "When I reached near, he stepped back.

"I said: 'What are you doing? What's wrong with you?'

"He said: 'Move back, otherwise I'm going to stab you'.

"He was standing there with two ladies and another man. He said 'better move back'.

"He shot twice. He moved back and shot again."

Mr Hussain told jurors that by this point Mrs Cox, who he had recognised as his MP, was bleeding from her mouth and was being helped by an Asian woman.

He said: "Jo's head was in her lap and she was pleading for Jo to stand up, talking about her kids.

"Her hands and clothes were covered in blood. She was the only person there helping her."

Clarke Rothwell was in a nearby sandwich shop when he heard a "popping" noise and a woman scream.

Mrs Cox then slumped to the floor before she was shot in the stomach, he said.

The man shouted words like "this is for Britain" and "put Britain first" before reloading his gun and shooting for a third time, the witness told jurors.

Tracy Bywood saw the killing as she was washing up in a care home kitchen overlooking the scene.

She said the MP "went down on the floor like a sack of potatoes", adding: "It was so awful to see a woman have such animosity shown towards her."

Fighting back tears, she told the court: "I known it was a popping noise because I won't even buy Pringles any more, I can't handle the noise of the seal breaking."

Jack Foster told the court he saw the man, having shot Mrs Cox once, reload his gun before shooting her twice more.

The England fan, who was wearing a red Three Lions football shirt ahead of a Euro 2016 game that evening, told how he shouted "f****** leave her alone" but the man took no notice.

"He reloaded his gun again, putting two cartridges in, cocked it and shot her on the floor," Mr Foster said.

He told the court he and two other men followed the man into a nearby street.

Mr Foster added: "He casually walked off. No remorse, no nothing."

Julie Holmes, who witnessed the attack from her shop, It's A Cake Thing, on Market Street, told how Mrs Cox's killer looked straight at her as if to say "here I am".

She said: "He took a step into the road and he looked around and he looked over to where I was standing.

"He looked me right in the eye and lifted the gun, not pointing it at me but as a gesture, saying 'here I am'."

David Honeybell, who had gone to see Mrs Cox before her surgery, told jurors: "He just walked away with not a care in the world, he just walked away."

Another eyewitness, Stephen Connolly, said: "It was very cold, he just walked away."

Mair denies Mrs Cox's murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon - a dagger.

He also pleads not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Carter-Kenny on the same date.

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