An Islamic State fanatic has been found guilty of murdering MP Sir David Amess at a constituency surgery in Essex. Ali Harbi Ali stabbed the politician to death in a Leigh-on-Sea church on October 15 last year.
The homegrown terrorist told his trial at the Old Bailey in London that he had no regrets about the murder, saying Sir David deserved to die because he voted for air strikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015. The court heard how he had also made plots to attack other MPs with similar voting records, including Cabinet minister Michael Gove.
Ali was found guilty of murder after a jury deliberated the case for just 18 minutes. The 26-year-old refused to stand up in the dock on “religious grounds” as he was convicted.
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The court heard how Ali, after spending months scoping out potential victims for an attack, settled on a plot to kill Sir David after seeing his upcoming surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Twitter. He made an appointment to meet the MP, falsely claiming he was moving to the area and was interested in churches.
Within minutes of meeting Sir David, Ali pulled out a 12 inch carving knife and stabbed him more than 20 times. The court heard how Ali had told Sir David he was “sorry” before plunging the knife into him, causing the politician to scream out.
He then waved the bloody knife in the air and threatened to kill the MP’s two female aides and a couple who had arrived for their appointment. Sir David’s assistant Julie Cushion told jurors he appeared “self-satisfied” in the wake of the brutal killing.
Ali was later apprehended by two police officers armed only with batons and spray. Sir David died at the scene.
Pc Ryan Curtis and Pc Scott James were given a bravery award, the Merit Star, which is Essex Police’s highest accolade since 2020, in a private ceremony in November. Essex Police Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow praised the pair for their “astounding bravery” in tackling Ali. “They’ve basically gone in armed with a stick – something that appears smaller than a deodorant can – to deal with a man that has just committed an absolutely heinous act, still armed with that knife,” he said.
Pc James recalled his actions on the day, saying: “No one knew if there were any other members of the public inside with the attacker. At this point we knew 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.”
The court heard how London-born Ali had become self-radicalised in 2014, going on to drop out of university, abandoning ambitions for a career in medicine. The defendant, who came from an influential Somali family and said he had a childhood “full of love and care”, considered traveling to Syria to fight but by 2019 he opted for an attack in Britain.
The court heard that Ali had sent a manifesto on WhatsApp to family and friends seeking to justify his actions around the time of the attack on Sir David. In the months before, Ali had been carrying round a knife he bought for £20 knife from Argos six years earlier, jurors heard.
While seeking out potential victims, Ali carried out reconnaissance on the Houses of Parliament but found police there “armed to the teeth”, the court heard. He also carried out online research on MPs including Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab and defense secretary Ben Wallace.
Ali had staked out the west London home of leveling up secretary Mr Gove six times and wrote detailed notes on how he might get to him. Scenarios included mingling with media, bumping into him jogging, ringing his doorbell, and causing a scene to “lure” him out.
However, Ali rejected his plans to target Mr Gove after the minister split up with his wife and was thought to have moved out of the family home. He later told police: “It was… so convenient to go to that address but I just, I don’t know why I didn’t do that one.”
In a police interview, Ali spoke calmly about his terror plot and admitted allegiance to so-called Islamic State. Jurors were told Ali had no mental health issues and he accepted much of the evidence against him.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said the murder was “the most appalling tragedy”, particularly for the Amess family, and an “attack on democracy”.
He said: “I’m obviously pleased that at the end of what must have been a very difficult trial for Sir David Amess’s family, justice has been served and this individual will now pay the price for his crimes.”
Ali, from Kentish Town, north London, will be sentenced on Wednesday, April 13, the judge said. Thanking the jury, the judge said: “It cannot have been easy to listen to the evidence you have listened to.”
Nick Price, head of the CPS Counter Terrorism Division said: “Sir David’s murder was a terrible attack on an MP as he went about his work, but it was also an attack on our democracy, it was an attack on all of us, an attack on our way of life. This was a horrific act of terrorism motivated by religious and ideological beliefs. 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 to the full extent of the law. Our thoughts today remain with the family and friends of Sir David. Their pain and suffering do not end with this conviction.”
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