Far-right extremist who shot dead MP Jo Cox before Brexit sent to jail for life

The jury at London’s central criminal court convicted Thomas Mair of killing British MP Jo Cox, who campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union, as she arrived at a library to meet her constituents on June 16, a week before Britain’s EU referendum.

world Updated: Nov 23, 2016 21:09 IST
JO Cox murder,JO Cox,Thomas Mair
FILE - This is a Friday, June 17, 2016, file photo of an image and floral tributes for Jo Cox, in Parliament Square, outside the House of Parliament in London, after the 41-year-old British Member of Parliament was fatally injured in northern England. A jury Wednesday Nov. 23, 2016 found Thomas Mair with white supremacist views guilty of murdering Labour lawmaker Jo Cox a week before Britain's EU membership referendum. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)(AP)

A far-right extremist was sentenced on Wednesday to life imprisonment without the possibility of release for murdering British MP Jo Cox a week before Britain’s EU referendum in a “politically motivated” attack.

“Because she was a member of parliament your crime has an additional dimension that calls for particular punishment,” judge Alan Wilkie told Thomas Mair, 53, as he issued the rare “whole life term” punishment.

“There is no doubt it was done to further a political motive,” he said.

The jury at London’s central criminal court convicted Mair of killing the mother-of-two, who campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union, as she arrived at a library to meet her constituents on June 16.

Mair showed no emotion as the sentence was read out.

The court earlier heard that Mair -- who refused to give evidence in his own defence -- shouted “Britain first” as he fired three shots at the lawmaker and stabbed her 15 times in Birstall, northern England.

Asked to give his name at an earlier hearing, he said: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

Following the verdict, Cox’s husband Brendan called the murder “a political act and an act of terrorism.”

“We have no interest in the perpetrator, we only feel pity for him,” he added, saying his family’s life had “collapsed” following the murder.

“All the ones who try to divide us will fight an unassailable wall of tolerance,” he said.

Read | A great star, brilliant young woman: World leaders mourn Jo Cox’s killing

West Yorkshire Police photo shows a gun that was presented in evidence during the trial of Thomas Mair found guilty of the murder of Jo Cox. (AP)

‘Betrayal’ of democracy

Sue Hemming, head of Counter Terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said Mair’s actions were “nothing less than acts of terrorism designed to advance his twisted ideology.”

Investigators found an extensive collection of books on German military history, the Holocaust and Nazi race theory and a statue of the eagle of Germany’s Third Reich when they searched Mair’s Birstall home.

Mair had also accessed the Wikipedia page of “far right” online publication Occidental Observer and the Twitter and Wikipedia pages for Cox.

The court heard that Mair had asked the question “Is a .22 round deadly enough to kill with one shot to a human head?” during one internet search, which refers to the size of a bullet.

The killing of Cox, who had defended immigration and refugee rights, shocked Britain and led to a three-day suspension in campaigning ahead of Britain’s June 23 vote to quit the EU.

Judge Wilkie said Mair had betrayed “the quintessence of our country -- parliamentary democracy.

“In the true meaning of the word she was a patriot,” he added. “You affect to be a patriot.”

Mair denied Cox’s murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon, but was found guilty on all counts.

The judged refused Mair’s request to address the court personally as Cox’s family watched on.

A 77-year-old local man, Bernard Carter-Kenny, was stabbed as he attempted to stop the attack.

“What you did to me that Thursday afternoon not only threatened my life but changed me as a person and all those around me,” said a statement read out on behalf of the pensioner.

First Published: Nov 23, 2016 21:09 IST