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Whole life sentence for neo-Nazi who murdered MP Jo Cox

Published 23/11/2016

Thomas Mair denies murdering Jo Cox
Thomas Mair denies murdering Jo Cox
MP Jo Cox, who was shot and stabbed

A neo-Nazi was handed a whole life sentence for the murder of MP Jo Cox and told by her grieving widower that it was the "most incompetent and self defeating" act of terrorism.

A jury deliberated for just over 90 minutes to find Thomas Mair guilty of killing the 41-year-old mother of two as she arrived for a surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Mair, 53, shouted "Britain first" as he fired three shots at Remain campaigner Mrs Cox and stabbed her 15 times on the afternoon of June 16, days before the EU referendum.

Following the conviction, her widower Brendan Cox told the packed Old Bailey courtroom: "We are not here to plead for retribution.

"We feel nothing but pity for him that his life was so devoid of love and filled with hatred, his only way of finding meaning was to attack a woman who represented all that was good about the country in an act of supreme cowardice.

"The killing of Jo was in my view a political act, an act of terrorism."

But he said it had been a "most incompetent and self-defeating" act, as it had led to communities pulling together and "allowed millions to hear a voice instead of silencing a voice".

Bernard Kenny, 78, who was stabbed as he tried to halt the onslaught by jumping on Mair's shoulders from behind, described Mair's actions as a "pure act of evil".

He said in a statement that 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.

Mair was silenced by trial judge Mr Justice Wilkie who refused his request to address the court before he was sentenced.

The judge paid tribute to Mrs Cox's "generosity of spirit" as she tried to help others - even as she was facing a violent death.

To an impassive Mair, he said : "In the true meaning of the word she was a patriot.

"You affect to be a patriot. The words you uttered repeatedly when you killed her give lip service to that concept.

"Those sentiments can be legitimate and can have resonance but in your mouth, allied to your actions, they are tainted and made toxic.

"You are no patriot. By your actions you have betrayed the quintessence of our country, its adherence to parliamentary democracy."

Mrs Cox's family hugged the prosecution team and wiped away tears as they left the court.

Outside, Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen said: "Jo Cox championed the democracy and inclusivity of this country and for that she paid the ultimate price."

Mair's conviction comes amid warnings of a heightened terror threat from right wing extremism.

Senior national co-ordinator for counter terrorism policing Neil Basu said around one in 10 referrals to the Government's anti-extremism programme is now linked to the far right.

The trial had heard how even 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.

Caseworker Sandra Major 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.

Two police constables rugby tackled Mair to the ground and, in the scuffle, he cut his head.

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

In pride of place on a bookshelf was a golden Third Reich eagle ornament with a swastika emblazoned on the front.

Mair, who had a teaching qualification and a Kirklees college student card, was a frequent visitor to Birstall and Batley libraries.

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.

Two days after the killing, Mair was brought before Westminster magistrates under the terrorism protocol.

When asked to confirm his name, the defendant, described by neighbours as a shy loner, said: "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain".

He has refused to answer to the charges against him and not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf to murder, grievous bodily harm to Mr Kenny and possession of the gun and dagger.

Having opted not to give evidence in the trial or put forward any positive defence, he was found guilty of all charges.

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